Middle-aged men are usually thought of as typical perpetrators of sexual harassment, not its victims. The truth, however, is that anyone can become a sexual harassment victim.
When a middle-aged male Disney Cruise Line employee recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit alleging his young female boss created a hostile work environment, that makes the news.
The employee, Anthony McHugh, was terminated from the job he held at Disney Cruise Lines for the past 18 years. In his lawsuit, McHugh claims he was fired after complaining about his boss’ behavior, which also included age discrimination.
McHugh lost his job officially for illegal substance use, and Disney Cruise Lines, a four-ship subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, says his lawsuit is meritless.
Male Sexual Harassment Lawsuits
Relatively few sexual harassment lawsuits are filed by males, and when they are, it’s generally due to male on male harassment. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the only major figure brought down by accusations of sexually harassing males was Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey.
Other situations where men file sexual harassment lawsuits may involve harassment due to homophobia or transphobia. Lawsuits filed by men against women for sexual harassment are few and far between, but sexual harassment laws are designed to protect workers harassed due to gender, whether that is female or male.
Female vs. Male, Youth vs. Age
In his lawsuit, McHugh did not include his age or that of his boss, other than stating he was over 40 and she was under 40. He claims she made demeaning comments about his age, including calling him a “stuffy old fart” in front of colleagues.
McHugh claims the sexual harassment involves his boss bragging about sleeping with married men, along with details of her various sexual activities. As for the substance abuse issue, McHugh, who admits he takes prescription medication to treat anxiety and attention deficit disorder, says his ex-boss stole medication from him.
It’s unlikely McHugh’s lawsuit would have gained media traction if he were merely alleging age discrimination rather than coupling it with sexual harassment. That’s a type of discrimination affecting both men and women in equal numbers.
McHugh’s lawsuit states that an under-40 female replaced him after his termination, and that other older members of his work term were also fired or forced to resign. They were then replaced with younger employees. According to McHugh, younger team members received tablets and iPhone, but his boss refused to give him these devices.
He says she banished him from a regular office to a “windowless space.” Perhaps his most critical claim is that he was passed over for promotions, although he was more senior and qualified than those receiving these positions. While women often rightly complain that management does not include enough females in top levels, McHugh’s lawsuit states that all of the top brass in his division were female, which didn’t reflect the gender makeup of the division.
What happens with McHugh’s lawsuit remains to be seen. Even if the court throws it out, however, it does bring attention to the fact that sexual harassment is not exclusively men harassing women.
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