10th Circuit overrules lower court in harassment case

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit sent a sexual harassment case back to a lower court for trial. In its ruling, it rejected a claim by the defendant, that was the plaintiff’s employer, that the case should not go forward because there was no required EEOC charge of quid pro quo harassment. California employees might be interested to hear that the appeals court based its decision on the fact that no label is required to proceed with a sexual harassment claim.

While academics may have created distinctions between quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment, they are not distinct claims under Title VII. The court found that a claim of sexual discrimination describes both types of sexual harassment and that there is only a need to have sufficient facts to back up the allegation.

In the case that led to the ruling, a male mechanic charged that another worker was treated better because he had sex with a female supervisor. He also charged that he was fired for refusing to do so himself.

Sexual harassment may take many forms in the workplace. Workers who are subject to lewd comments or treated worse than others based on their refusal to comply with demands for sexual favors may be victims of discrimination. It may be possible to take legal action against a company for creating a hostile working environment or for suggesting a quid pro quo arrangement. An attorney can often be of assistance in the preparation of a claim to be filed with the EEOC or appropriate state agency.

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