Federal Court Rules That A Reasonable Jury Could Find That State Court Judge Subjected Employee To Sexual Harassment
A common myth associated with sexual harassment is that individuals who engage in sexual harassment in the workplace are almost exclusively low-level hourly employees. In perpetuating this self-serving myth, companies endeavor to portray themselves as helpless victims of behavior by employees they are unable to control. Having represented sexual harassment victims for more than 15 years, our Central Florida sexual harassment attorneys have learned that upper management employees, including company owners and officers, frequently engage in sexually harassing behavior. The sexual behavior of upper management employees often does not result in sexual harassment lawsuits because of victims’ justified fears of retaliation by individuals who possess unilateral power over their employment. Consequently, sexually harassing behavior by upper management employees frequently is never reported or publicized. The decision by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Barry v. O’Grady, 2017 WL 1234048 (S.D. Ohio March 31, 2017) illustrates that the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is not limited low-level hourly employees.
In that case, Teresa Barry (Barry) brought a sexual harassment claim pursuant to federal law against Judge James O’Grady (O’Grady). Berry worked as a judicial secretary for O’Grady at the Franklin County Municipal Court. Barry alleged that O’Grady frequently engaged in sexually explicit conversations with his bailiffs, stated a female attorney was “smoking hot” and ruminated “if I wasn’t married,” asked Barry probing questions about her dates, remarked about a female attorney “being good at what she does,” and exposed her to a nonstop barrage of profanity. Barry further claimed that O’Grady used gender-specific expletives when referring to women. Barry alleged O’Grady’s harassing conduct occurred when O’Grady and the bailiffs would converse in his chambers near her workstation.
O’Grady filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Barry’s sexual harassment claim. In doing so, O’Grady asked the trial court to find that Barry’s sexual harassment claim failed as a matter of law and Barry was barred from presenting her sexual harassment claim to a jury. The trial court denied O’Grady’s motion for dismissal and found that Barry’s sexual harassment claim must decided by a jury.
In denying O’Grady’s motion for dismissal, the trial court explained that whether O’Grady’s alleged conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment was “quintessentially a question of fact.” The trial court found that O’Grady’s “purported conduct could be considered sufficiently severe or pervasive for a reasonable jury [to] find the existence of a hostile work environment.” The court reasoned that, based on the totality of the circumstances, “given the pervasiveness of [ ] O’Grady’s alleged conduct, coupled with the alleged conduct’s offensiveness and plausible hostility towards females, a reasonable person could find [ ] O’Grady’s alleged conduct hostile and abusive.” The trial court observed that although “there is no evidence to suggest that [ ] O’Grady and the bailiffs directed their commentary at Barry, there is also no evidence to suggest that they took efforts to make their offensive comments outside of Barry’s hearing range or to conduct their insulting conversations in a private location.” Thus, the trial court explained, Barry had no means of escaping the insulting conversations and she was unavoidably exposed to them. Therefore, the trial court concluded, a reasonable jury could find that O’Grady “subjected Barry to unwanted harassment based on her sex that created a hostile work environment.”
Consult With Central Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have more than fifteen years of experience representing employees who have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or have questions about sexual harassment you have endured at work, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Central Florida sexual harassment attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.