Harassment

IT IS SEX HARASSMENT, SAY HOOTERS MALES

MALE EMPLOYEES AT HOOTERS SUE, 3 MARCH 2016

HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Hooters is known for their attractive servers and tasty wings, but two men who worked at the establishment claim their male boss sexually harassed them for years.

“Repeated, intense acts which were intended to cause mental harm to the plaintiffs, to humiliate them, to undermine them,” said Jason Oliver, an attorney who is representing both men.

Oliver’s clients PJ Cagnina and Scott Peterson filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging multiple instances of harassment.

One of those instances accuses their boss of throwing one of the men “down to the parking lot ground” and forcibly engaging in simulated sodomy, according to the suit.

They also claim the defendant would “touch male employee’s buttocks when standing behind them.”

Oliver says both his clients were Hooters’ managers at multiple locations around the Southland, including downtown Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and Hollywood.

They claim they confronted their boss about the behavior and the company investigated him. Within months, he was fired with no explanation as to why.

But soon after, Peterson was also let go, which his attorney argues was in retaliation.

“When they stood up to him, they paid the price. They were punished even more in terms of other types of mistreatment,” Oliver said.

Hooters released a statement that said: “This matter involves a franchised location and its employees in California. We have no independent knowledge of the facts and are therefore unable to comment.”

Neither men work for Hooters anymore and could not speak with CBS2 on-camera Wednesday night, but Oliver says this is not just about money, but is to want to make sure this kind of behavior doesn’t happen again.

 

IN THE NEWS – WORKPLACE BULLYING

If your company’s work environment is a reminiscent of a trip back to middle school, it may be time to update your policies and take a stand against “workplace bullying.”

Although conventional wisdom has been that rude and intimidating conduct between co-workers and even by supervisors falls outside the arena of legal liability for employers, recent court decisions have taken a closer look at workplace bullying as a component of more traditional claims like assault. An August 4 article by Cari Tuna in the Wall Street Journal notes that the Indiana Supreme Court recently upheld a $325,000 jury verdict awarded to a medical technician who was bullied by his supervisor, a cardiovascular surgeon. According to the allegations in that case, a pattern of verbal abuse culminated in a confrontation where the accused bully walked toward his victim with clenched fists while yelling at him. The jury found that conduct threatening enough to fall within the definition of assault, a finding the higher court upheld because it viewed that incident in the context of the pattern of bullying.

An earlier article in the New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope (3/25/08) reported that a surprising 37% of all workers surveyed by a national research firm admitted they had been the victim of workplace bullying.

Several state legislatures are reviewing “anti-bullying” legislation. Although none has been passed into law to date, companies may want to take a proactive stand against conduct that researchers have identified as a leading cause of workplace stress, loss of productivity and high turnover, by adding a ban on nondiscriminatory bullying to their HR policies.

EMPLOYER ALERT – LISTEN TO THE MUSIC

A Silicon Valley engineering firm is paying $168,000 in damages and amending its anti-harassment policy to include the playing of music with offensive lyrics, as part of the settlement of a racial harassment case filed by the EEOC.

According to the EEOC’s statement released June 24, the lawsuit was filed based on the failure of the company’s supervisors to respond appropriately to complaints by a black employee that a co-worker, a 27-year-old Vietnamese American, played and sang along with rap music that had racial slurs in the lyrics, including the “N-word,” within his earshot in the workplace.

Do you, as an employer, now need to monitor the musical taste of your workers and pre-approve what’s playing on their radio or iPod, even in the break room? Or prohibit employees from listening to music at work altogether? No. But you do need to train your supervisors to take complaints of this nature seriously, and make a distinction between music that simply reflects different tastes, and music that could reasonably be perceived as offensive based on race, ethnicity, sex or any of the protected classes under federal, state and local discrimination laws.

EEOC District Director Michael Baldonado had this to say about the case. “This is the kind of situation that many workplaces [in the country] face: How do you manage the culture clash – across generations, race and ethnicity, you name it – in a workplace that gets more diverse every day? I think it’s critical to try to put yourself into the shoes of the other person and take all complaints of discrimination seriously. Together we can try to defuse tensions and prevent situations from developing into discrimination and harassment.”

IN THE NEWS – EEOC HOLDS MULTIPLE COMPANIES LIABLE ON JOINT EMPLOYER THEORY

The EEOC announced last week a $1.65 million settlement in a case involving a primary contractor and four subcontractors, holding each company liable under a “joint employer” theory for racial harassment that occurred at a construction site. The key question was not which company actually employed the harassers; instead, the EEOC looked at whether supervisors in each company were aware of the harassment and failed to take appropriate action to stop it.

EEOC District Director Marie Tomasso commented: “Employers risk intervention by the EEOC when supervisors ignore racially offensive working conditions and fail to take prompt and effective remedial action to stop it.” Blatantly offensive conduct at this construction site included derogatory racial comments directed toward black employees, use of the “n-word,” repeated references to the Ku Klux Klan, and, in one instance, a noose suspended from a beam.

Although this case is an extreme example of workplace harassment, the lesson to all employers is to take immediate corrective action when an employee first complaints about a racially hostile work environment, regardless of whether your company has primary responsibility for the worksite. Harassment – whether it emanates from your own employees, a vendor, a contractor or a customer of your company, and regardless of whether it occurs in an office setting or out in the field – must be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

For additional information on this case, see: http://www.eeoc.gov/press/5-5-08.html.