Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always taken as seriously as it should be. Young employees like Emily Houser, an 18-year-old Pennsylvania resident, are often unprotected when facing the unwanted advances of older managers.
Since the age of 16, Houser had been working at a local Chili’s restaurant. According to news accounts, she worked under Josh Davidson, her 24-year-old manager, during most of her time at the restaurant.
The story of his repeatedly improper behavior might have never become public, had Houser not been humiliated for having reported on Davidson’s sexual harassment.
The tale of Houser’s woes made headlines, when her co-workers decided to use Instagram to shame her. This a testimony to the prevalence of victim isolation and the kind of retaliation that too often comes not only from management- but also from peers.
According to news accounts, two years ago, Emily noticed her manager was especially interested in her. He started showing up at her house and forcing her to go on dates with him. "He would just show up to my house uninvited and say he was outside and I had to come with him,” Emily told reporters.
Davidson allegedly spent two years showering his subordinate with gifts, bouquets, and even cash. Houser routinely refused to accept his offerings. She recalls it made her “extremely uncomfortable because I was not sure what he expected of me from these gifts."
On Emily’s 18th birthday, Davidson showed up at her high school, bearing gifts, and asked her to be his girlfriend. When she said no, he explained that he didn’t mind getting fired for dating her.
After Houser made it clear that she was not going to date him, Davidson reportedly continued to stalk her at home, sometimes showing up at her doorstep in the middle of the night.
On his last attempt at a conquest, Davidson went to Emily’s house at 2:30 AM and tried to give her a card accompanied by several $100 dollar bills. “I gave it back and kind of told him to just really back off of me, because I was so obviously not interested in him and did not want to be with him," Houser recalls.
As it often happens in these cases, following this ultimate rejection, Davidson became verbally abusive and started giving Emily a hard time at work. Soon after, she noticed her manager had taken an interest in another very young girl.
While she hadn’t reported his misconduct yet, Emily felt the need to protect her colleague, and to her great credit decided to contact Chili’s headquarters. Again, as it is often the case with sexual harassment in retail operations circumstances, the company did not fire Davidson but merely transferred him to another location.
Before reporting Davidson, Houser quit her job. Somehow, the company didn’t make her feel like she could report it and keep the job, it didn’t make her feel safe. This mindset is not uncommon when protections for potential victims of harassment are not efficiently implemented.
About a week ago, Emily’s former co-workers threw a farewell party for Davidson, before he transferred to his new location. They made a cake decorated with the words, "F*ck Emily Houser," and posted photos of the cake on Instagram. In a message thread, some of them called her, an “expletive deleted.”
Apparently, Davidson was a popular manager, and the team didn’t see fit to condemn his conduct towards Houser. Moreover, the location’s general manager attended the party, according to Houser. The point of the party was to offer support for Josh Davidson, and attendees used the hashtag #teamjosh on social media.
One particularly shocking aspect of this case is that anonymous reporting is one of the key elements of any sound sexual harassment policy. When Houser told a Chili’s area director what had happened, she was assured that nobody would find out.
Chili’s failed to protect Houser in numerous ways. It didn’t protect her when she was being sexually harassed by Davidson, and it did not shield her from public abuse from her co-workers on social media.
Unfortunately, cases like this are not uncommon. Company policy means nothing without educating staff. Raising awareness about sexual harassment can prevent many a traumatic situation. Emily Houser was, in a way, deprived of the innocence of her youth. She had to quit her job, and she ultimately suffered public humiliation, just because she didn’t want to have a relationship with her manager.
Sexual harassment victims deserve to be heard. If you have been a victim of harassment in the workplace, there is no need to quit your job. Instead, it is essential that you contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney to assess your legal situation, protect your job, stop the conduct, determine the financial compensation to which you may be entitled, and ensure the culprit will not harass again. Our experienced sexual harassment lawyers will offer a free, confidential consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us at 877.858.8018 or Connect Online.