Category Archives: hostile work environment

Department of Interior pays employee $150,000 to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

In September 2009, the Department of Interior was ordered to pay a Federal employee $149,459 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a Department of Interior employee named Celeste Gray who claimed that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor for over two years.

Gray alleged that her supervisor “rubbed her shoulders, called her into his office to pick up trash off the floor in front of his desk, put a bottle of oil on her desk for her hair; told her that there was ‘nothing he did not know about a woman’s body.'”

Gray’s allegations were supported by two coworkers, who testified that their boss had asked another employee what kind of bra she had one and would look at the breasts of a female coworker and say, “Oh, I see the girls this morning.”

Gray suffered serious psychological damages as a result of the sexual harassment that she endured.  She suffered from hypertension, headaches, sleep disorder, depression, anxiety, nightmares, low self-esteem, excessive drinking, and alienation from family members.

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Dave’s Supermarket sued by EEOC for sexual harassment

Last September, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Cleveland-based Dave’s Supermarket, accusing a meat department manager of repeatedly sexually harassing female employees and accusing upper management of knowing about the bullying and not taking steps to prevent it.

The EEOC claims that Dave’s Supermarket manager Jugo Vidic subjected female employees to a hostile work environment permeated with sexual harassment that included making repeated, unwanted sexual advances on female employees as well as exposing himself to his female coworkers.

Dave’s Supermarket Chairman Burt Saltzman said, “We don’t think there’s any merit to (the lawsuit), and it’s under investigation.”  Saltzman also said that Vidic still works at the store.

Dave’s is a Cleveland-based grocery store chain which operates 13 stores in Northern Ohio, employing more that 1,500 employees.

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EEOC sues Dollar General for sexual harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Dolgencorp, LLC, doing business as Dollar General, in September 2009 for subjecting a number of female employees to a sexually hostile work environment at two North Carolina stores.

The EEOC lawsuit states that a male Dollar General store manager sexually harassed several female employees by making crude and offensive sexual comments, by requesting sex from the women, and by touching their breasts and buttocks.

According to the lawsuit, the women complained about the sexual harassment to Dollar General company managers, but the harassment did not stop.  One of the women quit her job in order to escape the workplace bullying.

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Professors sue and demand ouster of Edison College president

Trouble seems to be brewing for Kenneth Yowell, president of Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio, who has drawn criticism from a number of Edison professors. 

Charles Quincy Essinger, a former adjunct professor filed a lawsuit against Yowell and the college for allegedly unlawfully firing him in retaliation for videotaping a board meeting in April 2009 in which the faculty held a no-confidence vote in Yowell.  Essinger also accuses Yowell of writing an email in July that attacked his character and competence.

Stephen Marlowe, an Edison professor whose recent contract-violating layoff outraged faculty members, has been reinstated by the college after his union agreed to drop all of its formal grievances against Yowell and the college. Despite the victory, Marlowe and local union leaders continue to express their dissatisfaction with the leadership of Kenneth Yowell.

Marlowe and a number of other faculty leaders believe that he was laid off because of his recent public criticism of Yowell, both in his involvement with a no-confidence vote in Yowell and as the editor of the local union news blog.

In reacting to his reinstatement, Marlowe said, “We won the battle but not the war. My termination was the last in a series of really heavy handed missteps in leadership. My case was symbolic of what many people have suffered for the last 20 years of (Yowell’s) leadership. The only reasonable outcome of this situation is that (Yowell) retire.”

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Former employee sues Playboy for hostile work environment and discrimination

Jenny Lewis, the former Guest Relations Coordinator at the Playboy Mansion, has filed a lawsuit against Playboy Enterprises and Hugh Hefner after the company terminated her on November 4, 2009 while she was on medical leave recovering from surgery.

Lewis alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment at the Playboy Mansion for the past year.  In addition, she has accused her former bosses of gender discrimination for demoting several women while refusing to demote any of their male counterparts.

Lewis claims that her termination was unlawful under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and that it happened in retaliation after she questioned practices that she thought might be violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

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12 black employees sue Cleco Corp for racial discrimination

Twelve current or former black employees of Cleco Corp., an energy company based in Pineville, Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly subjecting them to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment where bosses encouraged “racist and dicriminatory comments”.

In addition, the lawsuit says that the company retaliated against employees who complained to Cleco management about the workplace bullying.

The black employees allege that they “were routinely denied promotion while (Cleco promoted) similarly situated white employees with less experience, education and training.”

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Lesbian lawyer sues law firm for sexual harassment

After receiving a right to sue notice from the EEOC in November 2009, a former associate of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the law firm for denying her a promotion because she is a lesbian and for not taking action to stop executives from harassing her.

Julie Kamps, a Harvard Law School graduate, worked at Fried Frank from 1998 until January 2009. Kamps alleges that Janice Mac Avoy, a female partner at Fried Frank, sexually harassed her by “knowingly (making) unwelcome sexual advances and sexual comments to Kamps, both alone and in the presence of others.” According to Kamps, Mac Avoy “told Kamps that it was ‘the biggest regret of her life’ that she had not slept with Kamps ‘when she had the chance.'” Mac Avoy also allegedly talked about various sexual acts with Kamps.

Kamps’ complaint also names William McGuinness, chair of the firm’s litigation department, and David Hennes, a litigation partner who allegedly asked Kamps to write a negative review of an attorney that he wanted “to get rid of.” After Kamps refused, she alleges that Hennes began a campaign of harassment against her.

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Employee fired after complaining about boss on ‘anonymous’ company website

Michelle Miller, a manager at Indiana-based Wireless @ Work, has filed a lawsuit against her company after she was allegedly fired three hours after she complained on a “purportedly anonymous” company website about co-owner Steve Unversaw’s “inappropriate comments” about minorities and his behavior towards women.

Miller claims that Steve Unversaw said black people “tended to be’thieves and con artists,'” that Unversaw accused a black employee of “stealing a phone and ‘acting his color,'” and that he told Miller that “by hiring black employees she was not protecting the interest of the company.”

Miller alleges that after she witnessed Unversaw making “sexist comments” to another female employe, she decided to report the sexual harassment on a company website designed to field such complaints. Three hours later she was fired by Unversaw’s business partner, Wireless @ Work co-owner Matt Clarke.

Miller is seeking punitive damages for being subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation.

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Former Whirlpool employee awarded $1 million in sexual harassment lawsuit

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Whirlpool ended with the judge ordering Whirpool to compensate the victim for failing to protect her from extensive and ongoing harassment by a male coworker.

During the trial, 56-year-old Whirlpool employee Willie Baker repeatedly made inappropriate racial and sexual comments toward the victim, Carlotta Freeman, over a period of several months, at then end of which Baker punched Freeman in the face.

Freeman, who worked for Whirlpool for more than 16 years on an assembly line in Tennessee, claimed to have reported the racial and sexual harassment on a number of occassions. Her lawyers claimed that although numerous managers were aware of the hostile work environment, the company failed to take the necessary steps to stop Baker’s abusive behavior.

As a result of the harassment, Freeman has suffered serious psychological injuries that include, as her attorney describes, “probably…the worst case of post traumatic stress disorder you’ve ever seen.”

Baker was fired and was later convicted of assault in criminal court.

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EEOC sues Jack in the Box California franchisee for sexual harassment

Kobra Associates Inc., a Jack in the Box franchisee which owns about 70 restaurants in Northern and Central California, was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for failing to take corrective action to stop a manager from sexually harassing his female employees.

Richard Bartels, the manager of the Jack in the Box restaurant in Paradise, California, was named in the EEOC lawsuit.  Bartels allegedly created a hostile work environment and subjected female workers under his supervision to unwelcome sexual advances and frequent remarks about their anatomy.

Though the female employees repeatedly complained about the sexual harassment through multiple avenues, including leaving messages with Jack in the Box’s ethics hotline, the lawsuit alleges that the company did not act to stop Bartels’ abusive behavior, which continued for more than one year.

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