Articles Posted in Gender Discrimination

Many Americans don’t think “that much” about sexual harassment these days. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, even the term “sexual harassment” may sound hoary — recalling the culture war days of the early 1990s and bringing to mind nostalgic images of Nirvana concerts, the falling Berlin Wall and the Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential election.

However, sexual harassment is alive and well in many American workplaces, and it still exacts a tremendous psychological toll on the women and men who experience it. Statistics suggest that this behavior is still way-unreported. Many female and male employees who suffer through it also fall victims to employment problems like overtime violations, tip pool violations, discrimination and retaliation. They fall silent because they don’t understand their rights or know how to protect them in the judicial system.

Nevertheless, American workers definitely have it better than workers in other parts of the world — parts of the world like Egypt. Consider a shocking 2013 United Nations report, “Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,” which found that the vast, vast majority of the female population in Egypt – 99.3 percent! – claim to have suffered sexual harassment.

26 year-old Lihuan Wang recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss at Phoenix Satellite Television’s New York Bureau. Wang said that, when she served as an unpaid intern for the Bureau back in 2010, her supervisor “grabbed her butt and tried to kiss her.” A Manhattan Federal Court Judge, Kevin Castel, put a damper on her quest for justice. A local New York paper summarized his decision: “the judge said that, since unpaid interns are not technically employees, they cannot sue for sexual harassment.

Or, as the New York Post put it: “no paycheck, no benefits – and no protection from creeps.” After Castel’s ruling on October 3rd, Wang’s attorney expressed outrage and consternation: “this is terrible … there is no logical reason to allow an intern who is young and vulnerable to be sexual harassed.”

Upon learning of this loophole, Gale Brewer, a city councilman from Manhattan, said that she will put forward legislation to prevent this kind of human rights issue in the future. Both Washington D.C. and Oregon have amended their human rights laws accordingly. Wang was so disturbed by what happened that she left United States to go back to her native China. But her lawsuit will go forward on different charges. She contends that the Television Bureau did not hire for a paid position as retaliation for her turning down her boss’s advances.

Sexual harassment at the workplace touches a nerve because it’s emotionally and viscerally offensive. But to get the behavior to stop, victims often need to be objective and systematic. This can be quite challenging. Consider the fine line between flirting and harassing someone. How can you tell the difference, and how can you prove it in court?

It’s easy to find extreme examples that clearly fall on one side of the line or the other. For instance: two coworkers share a mutual hug after closing a big account — that’s probably fine. However, when a supervisor sends his secretary lewd emails about his sexual fantasies, that’s likely harassment.

But not every situation is cut and dry.

The New York Post is reporting on an astonishing New York sexual harassment case involving ex-Playboy Playmate, Stephanie Adams. Joseph & Kirschenbaum proudly represents the plaintiff, 32-year-old yoga instructor and massage therapist, Dilek Edwards, who alleges that Adams illegally fired her in October. Why? Out of an unfounded fear that Ms. Edwards had been flirting with her husband.

Ms. Edwards had been working for the Wall Street Chiropractic Clinic owned by Adams and her husband, Charles Nicolai. When Nicolai started training with Edwards back in June, he warned the yoga teacher that his wife “might become jealous” and insisted that his yoga therapy [which he needed to recover from an accident] “had to be a secret” because he worried that his wife might get upset and jealous.

Even with that ominous warning, nothing could have prepared Edwards for a text message she received at 1:30 a.m. on October 30th from Adams that read “you are NOT welcome any longer at Wall Street Chiropractic, DO NOT ever step foot in there again, and stay the F-K away from my husband and family!!!!!!!” Edwards says that Adams’ insinuations are “absurd” and insists her relationship with Nicolai had been “purely professional.”

When sexual harassment occurs, the content is often explosive and x-rated.

But what obligations do journalists have to print the “blow-by-blow” of accusations, in full florid detail?

Slate reporter, Amanda Hess, considered that question in a recent online piece, “At the NYT, ‘All The News That’s Fit To Print’ Does Not Include Sexually Harassing E-Mails.”

On April 15th, nude dancer Jodi Noelle Durfee filed a suit against a Portland strip club owner, Patrick Benjamin Schwartzkopf, accusing her ex-manager of sexually harassing her and then retaliating when she complained about his behavior.

The ex-dancer and bartender said Mr. Schwartzkopf groped her while inebriated and under the influence of cocaine, while she worked at the Skinn Nightclub in Northeast Portland, Oregon.

Durfee began working at the club in December 2012. According to court documents, she said that Schwarzkopf slapped and grabbed her – often inappropriately touching her in front of customers. She also said he talked to the bar’s customers about her sex life.

If your New York City employer sexually harassed you — or failed to promote you for illegal and/or despicable reasons — take heart that you work in a country where legal system affords victims of workplace mistreatment robust rights.

Consider, by contrast, the following crazy story out of Japan.

A former Prada executive, Rina Bovrisse, sued her old employer for multiple grievances. Her CEO allegedly demoted and/or transferred 15 women coworkers, calling them “old, fat, ugly, [and] disgusting.”

If you’ve been sexually harassed, or if your employer committed a tip pool violation or other violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you need to understand your rights.

Sometimes, it can be useful (not to mention cathartic) to look at other, similar cases in the news. Consider, for instance, a recent sexual harassment case out of Tennessee, which a judge dismissed “with prejudice.” What can we learn from what happened?

Megachurch Community Riven by Controversy

When 42-year-old Ellen Pao leveled sexual harassment allegations against the senior partners at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Silicon Valley insiders were stunned.

Pao says Kleiner prevented her and other women from advancing in the company. The gender discrimination accusations shocked local tavern owner, Jamis MacNiven, who runs a popular bar in Silicon Valley. He said Kleiner had an “impeccable reputation” and that his experience was that the people in the firm were “the most normal people in the world.”

Pao’s harassment case is notable for many reasons:

Have you suffered harassment or discrimination at your workplace?

If so, by examining two recent stories in the news, you might come to a deeper understanding about what you can do to get the bad behavior to stop… and possibly to get compensated for your lost wages, emotional turmoil, and other struggles.

Recently, a company called Yellow RC Worldwide Inc. settled a prominent racial harassment and discrimination suit for $11 million. The case concerned African-American employees at an Illinois facility, who allegedly had been operating in a “racially hostile working environment” that included discriminatory terms of employment. The freight hauling company settled a similar suit with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) back in 2010. That suit, which considered a different Yellow Transportation owned facility, settled for $10 million.

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