Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

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file211246764163Lauren Greene, former New Media Director and later Communications Director for Blake Farenthold, a congressman from Texas and the owner of the domain name “www.blow-me.org” filed suit against her former boss in D.C. federal district court on Friday, December 12.

The complaint alleges that Congressman Farenthold created an “uncomfortable work environment,” according to the Washington Post, when he told another office worker that he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Ms. Greene. The complaint further alleges that the Congressman, on more than one occasion, made comments to Ms. Greene about her appearance and then said “he hoped his comment wouldn’t be taken for sexual harassment.” He told another office worker that Ms. Greene “could show her nipples whenever she wanted to” during a discussion of Ms. Greene’s attire.

The complaint goes on to allege that Acting Chief-of-Staff Bob Haueter treated Ms. Greene in a way that “was intended to, and did, belittle and humiliate Plaintiff” based on her gender. When Ms. Greene told Congressman Farenthold about her concerns, the Congressman said that Mr. Haueter “was known to be condescending toward women on the staff, then paid empty, lip service encouragement for [Ms. Greene] to stand up for herself.”

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file0001365683306In Part 1 of our 2 Part series on the EEOC’s new Guidelines on Pregnancy Discrimination, we discussed the first five things you should know about this recent and important guidance.  Here are tips six through eleven:

6) Title VII prohibits an employer from offering a health insurance plan that does not cover prescription contraceptives but provides other preventative health care.   To comply with Title VII, an employer’s health insurance plan must cover prescription contraceptives to the same extent it does prescription drugs, devices and services that are used to prevent the occurrence of medical conditions other than pregnancy, such as medicine that lowers cholesterol levels.

This, of course, is particularly fascinating because it is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Nos. 13-354, 13-356, 2014 WL 2921709 (U.S. June 30, 2014).

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file0001838914447You’ve likely heard by now the story of freshman Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister (R-La.) kissing one of his staffers.  Now, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is trying to make it so that Representatives and their staffs have to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training.

Unlike the rest of the federal government and many private companies, there is no specific requirement in place that requires U.S. Representatives and their staffs to receive sexual harassment training.  And unlike many of your own workplaces, there aren’t posters and signs in break areas reminding workers of regulations and how to report unwanted conduct.  Many offices don’t even discuss sexual harassment policies at all.  The Senate has training courses for new employees, but several different policies can apply.  The House has no training schedule, but has handbooks.

Frustrated by the seemingly haphazard way these regulations have been put in place in Congress, Rep. Speier said “This is the House of Representatives, not a frat house.”  She continued, “it is time for all of us to get trained – elected officials and their staffs – to recognize what sexual harassment is, and how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.”  Other lawmakers have expressed concern about these kinds of problems in the past.

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file000704919536In 2013, Lihuan Wang, then a student at Syracuse University and an unpaid intern for Phoenix Sattelite Television, sued Phoenix because her supervisor took her to lunch and to a hotel room where he kissed her by force and grabbed her buttocks.  She resisted and, later, Phoenix wouldn’t hire her.  U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel dismissed Ms. Wang’s lawsuit because she was not Phoenix’s “employee” and, thus, the New York City Human Rights Law didn’t apply to her.

Ms. Wang isn’t the first unpaid intern to have to deal with harassment at her internship.  According to Newsweek, one intern was taken out to a bar by her supervisor to discuss career options, but instead he made advances toward her and put his hand on her thigh.  Another was subjected to racial slurs while at work.  Interns – talented young people who are selected for their enthusiasm, their work ethic, and their willingness to work for literally no pay – often feel like they are powerless to stop this kind of harassment.  The most important way interns are usually “compensated” for their time is through a positive reference and/or contacts in the industry where they’re looking for find a job.  Interns feel like complaining could damage or jeopardize those references and contacts, especially when the interns are given no redress by the court system.  But, in New York City at least, this is about to change.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill into law on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 that provides NYC interns with protections from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  As the mayor said before signing the bill, “this legislation will clarify that interns, paid or unpaid, are guaranteed the full protections guaranteed to employees under the human rights law.”  Interns in New York will no longer be akin to fair game for harassment and exploitation as far as discrimination and harassment are concerned.