Sexual Harassment: A Few Words of Advice in the Wake of Weinstein, Spacey, and the Media Frenzy

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
11/03/2017
Over the past few weeks, we have seen, heard and read alot about allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, and a number of other high-profile media  and entertainment personalities.  In most of these cases, the allegations involve claims of non-consensual sexual contact, sometimes even rising to the level of rape.  With each day, it seems that more accusers surface, and a Twitter hashtag ("#MeToo")...
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Employer Lawfully Fired Employee for Making Harassment Claim

Kollman & Saucier
Kollman & Saucier
06/16/2017
Sex, lies, but no videotape.  A Virginia restaurant was faced with this juicy but difficult harassment investigation involving several current and former employees.  After sorting out the sordid claims, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that employers who honestly believe, after investigation, that employees have made false harassment complaints are permitted to use their business judgment to discipline or terminate the person who they...
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Federal Judge Declares Ending Light Duty Assignment to be Adverse Action

In Cobbs v First Transit Co. et. al., Case No. 6:16-cv-00015 (W.D. Va. Dec. 16, 2016), a federal judge in Lynchburg, Virginia ruled that a bus company took an adverse employment action against an employee by ending her light duty assignment. In so holding, the court ruled that an employee had pled a cause of action for “quid pro quo” sexual harassment under Title VII and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The case involved an employee...
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Harassment Doesn’t Come Cheap at COSTCO

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen
12/29/2016
There were some shocking revelations during the recent campaign cycle suggesting that our President-elect may not have clearly understood the difference between “appropriate’ and “inappropriate” behavior toward women.  Putting aside that oddity, in the decades since the Supreme Court first recognized sexual harassment as a cause of action under Title VII in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), there has been a heightened...
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Court Finds Supervisor's Harassing Behavior To Be Outside the Baselines

Kollman & Saucier
Kollman & Saucier
07/15/2016
As the second half of the Major League Baseball season begins tonight (with thanks to Zach Britton, Matt Wieters, and the rest of the Orioles All-Stars for helping to win World Series home-field advantage for the AL), the First Circuit offered another reminder that baseball doesn't always mix well with the workplace.  Burns v. Johnson, No. 15-1982 (1st Cir. July 11, 2016). Kathleen Burns began working for the Transportation Security Administration...
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Employer Response to Same Sex Harassment Complaint Considered Inadequate

Clifford Geiger
Clifford Geiger
02/11/2016
A federal appellate court recently upheld a $300,000 jury verdict in favor of an employee who claimed he was the victim of same sex sexual harassment.  Smith v. Rock-Tenn Servs., Inc., 6th Cir., No. 15-5534 (2/10/16). The plaintiff worked as a support technician for a corrugated box company. Plaintiff claimed that on two occasions,  his co-worker, Jim Leonard, approached Plaintiff from behind and either slapped or grabbed Plaintiff’s butt....
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Employer Sued for Harassment Gets Off Despite Comments About Oral Sex

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen
12/21/2015
Early in my legal career (circa 1986), a female summer associate responding to my inquiry about why she wanted to be a labor and employment lawyer shrugged her shoulders and said: “it’s about the only area of law where you can use the term ‘blow job’ in conversation and it’s not inappropriate.” That memory came back to me a couple of weeks ago when I read of the court’s decision in Garner v. Clearstaff, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS...
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Prompt Investigation Helps Employer Avoid Liability On Harassment Claim

In a recent decision from a Mississippi federal court, Nissan avoided liability on a former employee’s sexual harassment claim because she could not show that her employer acted negligently in responding to her complaints.  Davenport v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., No. 3:14-CV-00671-CWR-LRA (S.D. Miss. Oct. 22, 2015). From August 2012 until January 2014, Joslyne Davenport worked as a production associate at a Nissan manufacturing plant in Canton,...
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Touching in the “Crotch Area” Only A Few Times Doesn’t Create a Hostile Work Environment

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt
06/30/2015
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals  held that a female African American travelling phlebotomist’s claims of hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and retaliation for allegedly failing to adequately mitigate sexual and racial harassment by a nursing home patient were properly dismissed. The patient’s conduct was not so severe that it rose to the level of actionable hostile work environment sexual harassment. Likewise, the employee...
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Thoughts on Rolling Stone, UVa, and Conducting a Proper Investigation

Eric Paltell
Eric Paltell
12/09/2014
As many of you know, the University of Virginia plays an important role in my life. I met my wife while in school there, got married at the UVa Chapel, hold two degrees from Mr. Jefferson's University, and have a daughter who is part of the Class of 2017.  Needless to say, I have followed the Rolling Stone story on an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity very closely.  This sad debacle teaches some good lessons that every lawyer and...
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