Florida Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Department Store Settles for $110,000

Department store chain Dillard’s will pay $100,000 and substantially change its practices to settle a same-sex sexual harassment claim brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Miami New Times reported June 12. The lawsuit stems from the behavior of a supervisor at an Orlando, Florida store. Two male employees, a sales associate and a dockworker, alleged that their male supervisor created a hostile work environment with the sexual harassment, which included exposing himself as well as other inappropriate behavior and comments. Dillard’s allegedly ignored their complaints.

According to the New Times, the unnamed supervisor lured employees into isolated areas, then started masturbating in front of them. On other occasions, he touched employees’ genital areas without permission and pressed his own against their bodies. The EEOC press release said he also propositioned the employees and made derogatory and sexually explicit comments. When they brought their concerns to supervisors, they were ignored; the New Times said Dillard’s denied that any sexual harassment happened. In addition to the $110,000 payment, the settlement includes obligations by Dillard’s to put harassment complaints in an employee’s personnel file and submit to three years of federal monitoring.

This is not the only recent sexual harassment case against Dillard’s, although it may be the first alleging same-sex sexual harassment. In April of 2008, the store settled another EEOC lawsuit involving 12 women in two different states who said they were harassed by the same supervisor. That supervisor, Scott McGinness, was transferred to Colorado after complaints about his behavior at a California store. His supervisors in Colorado were not notified of the past problems. He was finally fired after he verbally and physically harassed a Colorado 18-year-old, who went to the police.

Some workers might be surprised to see that the EEOC protects men as well as women from harassment by supervisors. Sexual harassment complaints by men are less common — they made up 15.9% of complaints received by the EEOC in 2008 — possibly because male victims are reluctant to come forward. However, sexual harassment of men absolutely does happen, and when it does, it’s just as illegal as harassment of women. That’s true regardless of whether the harasser is a man or a woman and regardless of the victim’s sexual orientation. Sexual harassment laws are based on the prohibition against sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act, and that prohibition protects both men and women.

Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP represents clients of all genders who were subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. That includes outright “quid pro quo” harassment, in which employees are asked for sexual favors in exchange for benefits, as well as harassment that creates a work environment so hostile that it’s hard for victims to do their jobs. Our sexual harassment attorneys help clients claim wages and benefits they lost to illegal harassment and retaliation; get their jobs back, if necessary; and make positive changes in their current or former workplaces.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace and you want to protect your rights, contact Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP as soon as possible. Based in New York City, our sexual harassment lawyers represent workers throughout the United States. To set up an initial consultation, you can contact us through the Internet or call (212) 688-5640.