Is Failure To Protect Sexual Harassment Victims Justified Because It’s A “He Said/She Said” Situation?
Having litigated sexual harassment cases in Florida courts over two decades, our Citrus County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys know that many employers fail to protect sexual harassment victims from known sexual harassment. In far too many cases, our Inverness, Florida sexual harassment lawyers have learned, employers justify their failure by claiming that complaints lodged by sexual harassment victims constitute a “he said/she said” situation. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys explain how a sexual harassment lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that employers are under a severe duty to protect sexual harassment victims and cannot refuse to protect sexual harassment victims because their complaints constitute a “he said/she said” situation.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In a press release issued on July 22, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a sexual harassment lawsuit against Mediacom Communications Corporation (Mediacom). On September 26, 2018, the EEOC filed the sexual harassment lawsuit, U.S. E.E.O.C. v. Mediacom Communications Corporation, Case No. 7:18-cv-00166, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. In the Consent Decree, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson on July 22, 2021, Mediacom agreed to pay $175,000 to resolve the sexual harassment lawsuit.
Sexual Harassment Victims’ Rights
The EEOC brought the sexual harassment lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of two former employees of Mediacom, Crystal Vinson (Vinson) and Breanna Caldwell (Caldwell). Title VII makes sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice. In its landmark decision in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court held that sexual harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment violates Title VII. In support of its decision, the Meritor Court reasoned that employees are not required to run a “gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work and make a living.”
The EEOC claims that Mediacom violated Title VII by subjecting Vinson and Caldwell to hostile work environment sexual harassment, and by failing to take prompt and effective corrective action to remedy the sexually hostile work environment.
Failure To Protect Harassment Victim
In May 2016, Vinson began working for Mediacom as a customer service representative at its office in Valdosta, Georgia. In September 2016, according to the EEOC, a supervisor began subjecting Vinson to unwanted sexually harassing behavior, including touching her and making comments about how she should dress. Later that month, the supervisor escalated his harassment by exposing himself to Vinson. The following week, Vinson complained to the Human Resources Director about the unwanted sexual behavior. The Human Resources Director told Vinson that no action would be taken against the supervisor because it was a “he said/she said” situation. Consequently, the supervisor continued to harass Vinson, including touching her breasts in January 2017. Vinson complained against in March 2017, but no action was taken. On July 17, 2017, Vinson resigned from her job because of the ongoing sexual harassment and Mediacom’s failure to remedy the situation.
Harassment Victim’s Complaints Ignored
In October 2016, Caldwell started working for Mediacom as a customer service representative at its office in Valdosta, Georgia. The EEOC contends that Caldwell was sexually harassed by the same supervisor who harassed Vinson. The EEOC alleges that the supervisor’s sexual behavior towards Caldwell included staring at her, following her around the workplace, and following her to her car after work. In March 2017, Caldwell complained to a supervisor about the unwanted sexual conduct. The supervisor told Caldwell that other women had complained about the supervisor and she would report the behavior to Human Resources.
Despite her complaint, according to the EEOC, the supervisor’s harassment of Caldwell continued unabated. Because of the ongoing harassment, Caldwell resigned on April 10, 2017. Shortly after she resigned, Caldwell told a Human Resources Manager that she did not feel safe because of the supervisor’s sexual behavior. The Human Resources Manager asked Caldwell to return to work and assured her that an investigation would be conducted. Caldwell agreed to return to work. On April 17, 2017, however, the supervisor was waiting for Caldwell at her car when she got off from work.
The following week, Caldwell reported the parking lot incident to several management employees and stated that she would have to resign because of fear for her safety. On May 9, 2017, the Human Resources Manager again asked Caldwell to return to work. Caldwell stated that she could not unless the supervisor was fired or she was not required to work the same shift as the supervisor. The Human Resources Manager told Caldwell that she would check into her request. The Human Resources Manager, however, never responded to Caldwell’s request. Instead, Caldwell received a termination letter from Mediacom on May 30, 2017.
Lawyers For Sexual Harassment Victims
The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment discrimination law. In order to deter employers from engaging in unlawful employment practices and to protect employee rights, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including employees who have been required to work in a sexually hostile environment.
In a press release issued by the EEOC on July 22, 2021, regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Marcus G. Keegan, explained that “after receiving multiple complaints, the company knew this harassment was occurring and failed to protect its employees as required by law.” In further commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Darrell Graham, stated that the “EEOC is committed to seeking relief for workers who are harmed by employers who fail to protect employees from known sexual harassment and who discriminate on the basis of sex.”
Citrus County Sexual Harassment Attorneys
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims for more than twenty years. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about an employer’s failure to protect you from sexual harassment in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Inverness, Florida sexual harassment lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take 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.