Florida school officers pursue harassment claim against chief

Police officers at our nation’s schools are essential to keeping students safe and should be treated with respect for the service they provide. Recent reports show that two officers within the Miami-Dade Schools system have been sexually harassed at work by the school district police chief. The officers, both female, have accused the man of attempting to have sex with them and initiating lewd conversations on the job.

Both of the women say they were retaliated against when they reported the blatant sexual harassment. One of the women said the police chief went as far as revealing himself to her on the job. The other said she was attacked when she met the man at his home while still in uniform; she just wanted to view some renovations he had performed on his house. The man reportedly grabbed that woman, forcibly kissed her and attempted to engage in sexual relations before she was able to escape.

The women have filed a suit based on the fact that the school district did not respond appropriately to their complaints about the chief. Even though the women reported the incidents, supervisors and school board personnel were reticent to handle the matter. In response to their complaints, the women were repeatedly threatened with termination. One of the women was transferred to another job many miles away after she reported ongoing harassment.

Both women said they were intimidated by the man during the course of their employment. They were afraid to lose their jobs, but they also feared for their physical safety. This type of harassment, which creates an exceptionally hostile work environment, is allowed to persist when employers don’t exercise their ability to promote and maintain a safe, welcoming workplace. Alternatively, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor attempts to trade sexual favors for professional advancement.

Media reports have not disclosed what kind of conditions on which the suits have been filed.

Source: NBC Miami, “Miami-Dade Schools police chief faces sexual harassment allegations in 2 lawsuits,” Willard Shepard, Jan. 16, 2013

Waffle House CEO accused of harassing assistant

A former Waffle House executive is in legal trouble after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced from his former assistant. The man, who is currently the firm’s CEO, is accused of forcing his female assistant to perform sexual services in order to keep her job. The woman says she was coerced into performing the degrading acts during her nine-year term with the man.

The woman reportedly submitted to an interview by the Atlanta police in late September, revealing lurid details about the current executive. Officers say the woman’s claims have not been entirely verified, but the investigation in the matter is ongoing.

Allegations from the criminal report state that the woman was harassed as early as 2003, when she started her job as a personal assistant working out of the man’s house. The man reportedly tried to sleep with the woman, and he also sought oral sex from her. When she refused to comply, he settled for manual masturbation, which was a condition of the woman’s employment for nearly a decade. The man also forced the woman to watch pornography, fondled her breasts and often appeared naked in front of her, according to the complaint.

Police documents show that the woman quit her job in June, after her son graduated from high school and earned a college scholarship. She placed the resignation letter in the man’s dresser, in order to spare his wife the humiliation that might come with a public pronouncement.

The woman waited for several months after her resignation to call police. This is not surprising, considering the intimate nature of the alleged harassment. Victims often need time to process their horrifying experiences before they can discuss their harassment.

Police say they have not yet charged the man with any criminal action. Even if the man is not subject to criminal sanctions, however, the woman appears to have a clear case against him in civil court. She could recoup compensatory and punitive damages in civil court under a variety of statutes designed to protect American workers.

Source: CNN Justice, “Waffle House CEO accused of forcing employee to perform sex acts,” Nov. 12, 2012

South Florida female firefighters face discrimination

A South Florida municipal fire department is under scrutiny by the EEOC for complaints of sexual harassment and discriminatory treatment brought by at least 10 employees. The filings have also prompted a visit from U.S. Department of Justice officials, who have already ordered the city to rewrite its policy on how it treats pregnant firefighters.

In one complaint, a female firefighter alleges that supervisors timed her daily bathroom visits before terminating her, yet did not subject her male colleagues to the same treatment. The complaint also alleges that the fire department’s leaders described women as second-class workers because they could get pregnant. Another complaint alleges that a firefighter lost her baby because her supervisor refused to let her go on light duty until her 2nd trimester.

Despite state and federal protections, many female firefighters are still subjected to unlawful conduct ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault. The president of the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services describes many fire departments as a throwback to the 1960s, where bias and discriminatory treatment of women is still prevalent. The association also reports that it gets inquiries about potential discriminatory treatment at least once a week from firefighters across the country.

Dealing with discrimination and unfair treatment can be devastating to any employee. In the firefighting industry, however, it can be deadly because of the teamwork required to get out of hazardous conditions. For that reason, some firefighters may hesitate to file a complaint with the EEOC, fearing retaliation from their coworkers. If you are the victim of unfair treatment in the workplace but are unsure how to proceed, an attorney can advise you on the steps you should take.

Source: Sun-Sentinel.com, “Female firefighters in South Florida face discrimination, harassment,” Susannah Bryan, July 9, 2012