Same Sex Sexual Harassment is Illegal in All States
Most people assume sexual harassment occurs between people of different genders. It does but increasingly we are seeing more cases of same sex sexual harassment. And neither how you identify nor the gender of the accused matters. Sexual harassment is illegal and you can sue if you are on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, touching, comments or similar behavior. The gender of the other party doesn’t matter.
To illustrate this, today we look at a case just filed against Lowe’s in Vacaville, California.
Lowe’s Sued for Sexual Harassment
Lowes operates 2197 stores in North America, most of which are located in the United States. Like most large companies, Lowe’s has a formal sexual harassment policy but policies are nothing more than pieces of paper. Unless vigorously enforced, they are meaningless. Just ask John Doe* (We do not print the names of harassment victims unless they have already been publicly identified.)
A male employee of the Vacaville, California Lowe’s, Doe says he was harassed by a male manager. Normally we would expect companies to immediately address problems like this but that didn’t happen.
According to the complaint filed on June 15th in Solano County, Doe was employed at the Vacaville store. For over a year, a male assistant manager made lurid comments about having sex with a man, described his genitals in-depth to Doe and even suggested that he perform a violent sexual act on Doe.
At one point the manager took pictures of Doe’s feet under the door of a bathroom stall. When Doe complained, the manager told him to stay quiet or he would “fuck up” Doe.
When Doe couldn’t the harassment to stop, he filed an online HR complaint. He received no assistance. Instead, the manager threatened him again, this time for making a complaint.
Finding no relief to the ongoing harassment, Doe finally quit.
This is a story we hear almost every day. Retail workers often don’t seek a lawyer, especially when the sexual harassment is from someone of the same sex.
Why don’t retail workers complain? Mostly because they don’t know how to get help. For most, HR is their last hope. If that fails, they either endure the ongoing harassment or quit. Add a same sex component into the mix and some folks are afraid that their complaints won’t be taken seriously.
Same sex sexual harassment is illegal. Fortunately, Doe sought counsel and filed a complaint in court. He is seeking damages for sexual harassment, having to work in a hostile work environment, retaliation, failure of the company to prevent sexual harassment, wrongful termination, invasion of privacy and intentional inflection of emotional distress.
Simply because you quit doesn’t mean you can’t bring a wrongful termination lawsuit. If the harassment is severe, you can quit and claim your loss of employment was a “constructive discharge.”
Same Sex Sexual Harassment is Illegal
Sexual harassment is not just harassment by men against women. Any sexual harassment is illegal under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) and under most state laws. This includes same sex harassment. If there was any doubt, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that workplace discrimination because of sex applied to harassment in the workplace between members of the same sex and includes unwelcome conduct between members of the same gender.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, courts have ruled that gender stereotyping is also actionable as sexual harassment. That means a woman who is harassed for being too masculine or a man harassed because he is too feminine.
Are You the Victim of Same Sex Sexual Harassment?
If you are the victim of same sex sexual harassment (or any type of sexual harassment), there is absolutely no reason to delay in seeking help. Under federal and state law you may be entitled to lost wages (if you quit or were fired), monetary damages, attorney’s fees, costs of suit and investigation and punitive damages.
To learn more, we have dedicated a page on our website to your most frequently asked sexual harassment questions. Ready to see if you have a claim? We can be reached online, by email [hidden email] or by phone at 877.858.8018. All new client inquiries are screened by an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. Case evaluations are free and confidential.
The Lowe’s complaint in this story occurred in Solano County. If you are a California resident and have suffered from sexual harassment, be sure to download our California Workplace Harassment eBook. We don’t sell names or contact information to others.
** Image courtesy of Brooke Winters on Unsplash