What If an Employer Instigates Sexual Harassment?
A waitress in New York City claims to have been sexually harassed by coworkers after her manager publicly chastised her and implied that she dressed “slutty.” The problem began after the manager allowed employees to dress casually during the World Cup in 2013. The plaintiff, 24-year-old Vanessa Lopez, says she wore a seemingly innocuous pair of jeans.
“The minute she saw me, she looked me up and down and said ‘I don’t like the way they look on you. You’re too much,’” Lopez said of her manager, adding “I felt embarrassed, like I did something wrong.”
Later the same day, the manager made a public announcement that the casual-dress policy would be cancelled because “some people’s choices in dress down are inappropriate.” Her thinly veiled jab at Lopez was just the beginning. Lopez claims that after that day, kitchen staff and other employees would call her slutty names and grab her.
The manager responded to Lopez’ complaints by saying her “bubbly personality attracts the wrong attention.” She also warned that Lopez would be fired if she filed a complaint for sexual harassment.
What If a Manager Starts Sexual Harassment?Employers are generally liable for the actions of their employees, including supervisors. The manager in this situation could potentially be found guilty of creating a hostile work environment. In addition, firing an employee for filing a sexual harassment complaint is workplace retaliation, which is also illegal. Supervisors that are accused of sexual harassment typically fall into one of two categories.
- Quid Pro Quo – This type of sexual harassment usually entails a supervisor asking for sexual favors in return for promotion or other employment decisions.
- Hostile Work Environment – An environment may be described as hostile if an employee is made to feel uncomfortable due to the actions of supervisors or coworkers; inappropriate advance, jokes, or physical contact.
What Should I Do If a Supervisor is Sexually Harassing Me?
- Check your employment handbook for policies regarding sexual harassment
- Keep written records anytime a supervisor makes you uncomfortable and save any emails containing sexual harassment
- Tell the supervisor that they are making you feel uncomfortable
- Speak to a sexual harassment attorney and file a complaint if the harassment does not stop