Restaurant owner implicated in sexual harassment case

He said she said. Investigators say that sexual harassment cases can sometimes be reduced to those four simple words, largely because sexual assault can take place in a private area without witnesses. A former hostess at a restaurant in Coral Gables, Florida, is alleging that her supervisor sexually accosted her after a shift.

The woman, who was 18 at the time of the assault, claims that the man groped her breast and attempted to force himself on her as he accompanied her to a parking garage. Authorities report that a criminal case is unlikely to gain traction because there were no witnesses to the crime, so the woman’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit. Attorneys report that the woman is seeking $1.5 million in damages.

The woman had only worked at the restaurant for two weeks in early 2012 when the alleged incident occurred. Her lawsuit states that her boss sexually abused, assaulted and harassed her.

Police have not filed any charges in the case because the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the woman’s attorney. Authorities admit that the woman submitted allegations against the man shortly after the incident occurred, but they could not indict the man on such tenuous charges.

Although it is unfortunate that the criminal system has failed this woman, the civil courts can provide her with financial redress for the wrongs she has suffered. The woman is suing for sexual harassment, but she could also be seeking additional compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of income, because she was forced out of her job.

Source: 6 South Florida, “La Dorada restaurant owner accused of sexual assault in former hostess’ lawsuit,” Diana Gonzalez, Feb. 5, 2013

FAMU coach loses job over sexual harassment claims

A controversial legal battle has ended the career of a baseball coach at Florida A&M University, according to media reports. The man, who had coached for more than 10 years, will be fired from his position in the athletics department because of allegations of sexual harassment. The charges were brought by a walk-on infielder who was cut from the team on two separate occasions.

The coach is accused of making rude and offensive statements to the player, allegedly threatening to dress the man in a bra and other ladies’ attire because of his poor playing skills. The player also alleges that he was offended by the coach’s foul language and other inappropriate comments.

As with many sexual harassment cases, this suit hinged upon sworn statements provided by witnesses; 24 baseball team members were interviewed in connection with the alleged incidents. About half of those players reportedly signed statements swearing that they had not witnessed any harassment. Players who provided testimony in the case said they interpreted the coach’s comments as good-natured ribbing, a practice common among coaches nation-wide. Some even said that the comments were not directed toward the plaintiff, but rather toward the team as a whole.

In this case, university officials have reacted with contempt, saying that the player has effectively prevented coaches from doing their jobs at public institutions. Still, if the coaches were treating players with more respect, the sexual harassment allegations would never have surfaced.

The coach himself calls the allegations defamatory, even though several players confirmed the plaintiff’s accusations. He will not return to coach at the school for a second season. He abandoned his defense case after realizing that he was unlikely to prevail in a session before an independent tribunal. It is not clear whether the player will be recovering financial damages in connection with the case.

Source: USA Today, “FAMU baseball coach fired amid sexual harassment claim,” St. Clair Murraine, Jan. 17, 2013.

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

Man receives settlement for mishandling of harassment claim

Sexual harassment charges can quickly derail a supervisor’s career. Although sexual harassment charges are heard, sometimes the alleged perpetrator does not receive due process and is wrongfully terminated. If a person accused of sexual harassment is fired without the appropriate procedural steps, the company could end up paying significant amounts of money for a breach of employment contract.

A former Morgan Stanley executive has been the recipient of just such a judgment this month, as a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel ruled that he should receive approximately $1 million in compensatory damages. The three-member panel decided that the man had been unlawfully terminated after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced at his firm.

The man had been assigned to oversee a branch manager that was underperforming, according to official documents. That branch manager submitted a complaint about the man to upper management. That same week, the man met with his supervisors and was told that he would be required to resign or be fired; he chose to accept the forced resignation. The decision came at a time during which wealth management firms had been forced to lay off many of their workers, so the resignation requirement was doubly suspicious.

During arbitration, the man’s lawyers alleged that he had not been given adequate time to respond to the allegations. Not everyone accused of sexual harassment actually commits the acts of which they are accused, but this man was left without procedural recourse to prove his innocence. Although he is dismayed that the settlement was significantly less than the $8 million he had sought in connection with the case, the man reports that he still feels vindicated by the decision.

The man has since moved on to a similarly high-ranking position at another financial institution in South Florida. Even though he said his career has been stunted by the sexual harassment allegations, he looks forward to moving on with his professional ventures.

Source: On Wall Street, “Arbitration panel awards former Morgan Stanley manager $1M,” Lorie Konish, Jan. 7, 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

Hotel manager accused of harassing and raping maid

A maid at a Miami based hotel has filed a state court lawsuit accusing a hotel manager of subjecting her to persistent workplace harassment including sexual harassment culminating in sexual assaults and rape.

The plaintiff is the married mother of two children. She asserts that she consistently resisted the male manager’s sexual advances, making it clear to him that she was not interested, but that he persisted, ultimately taking her by force and sexual molesting her on the hotel premises. He also engaged in sexual assaults on other maids employed on the hotel’s property.

At one point, according to court documents she filed, he demanded that she supply him with nude pictures of herself, threatening her with the loss of her job if she refused. He allegedly raped her by using a pretext of asking her to bring towels to a room, waiting inside, and pulling her into the room when she arrived.

After the initial assault, according to the complaint, the hotel manager sexually molested the maid on a number of occasions. In addition to threatening her with loss of her employment, he allegedly said that he would make trouble for her with immigration officials if she complained or failed to comply with his demands. She is an immigrant from Honduras, and was paid $7.67 an hour for her work at the hotel.

The abuse went on for two and a half years, according to the lawsuit.

Sexual harassment is a terrible offense, which can cause severe emotional damage to victims and their families. Workers have a right to do their job in peace and safety, and if the facts of this case are true, then this worker’s rights were violated in the worst possible way. She has not named her assailant as a defendant in the suit, instead targeting three companies involved in her employment. Based on the woman’s report, however, it seems likely that the hotel manager will one day face trial as well.

Source: Opposing Views, “Maid Claims Marriott Manager William Castro Raped Her,” Sept. 18, 2012

Study suggests sexual harassment motivated by power not sex

With most forms of sex-related offenses, the motives are usually something other than pure physical attraction. Sexual harassment in Florida and across the country, a new study confirms, is no different. According to research conducted by scholars at the University of Maine and the University of Minnesota, sexual discrimination in the workplace is motivated not by sexual desire but by a desire for power.

Researchers concluded this based on the study which analyzed the experiences of 1,010 individuals. The subjects discussed their experiences as high school freshmen and their experiences as adults, around the age of 30. The interesting find was that it was not the feminine, vulnerable, youthful employee who was harassed the most. Rather, it was most often the less feminine woman in a supervisory role.

According to the study, female supervisors experienced workplace discrimination 73 percent more often than non-supervisors. The study also found that women in male-dominated occupations, such as the police, experienced higher rates of sexual misconduct. The reason that such behavior is more common in male-dominated professions, the scholars suggest, is that women are less likely to report it.

The authors of the study believe that these results indicate that sexual harassment in the workplace is a way for men to keep women “in their place.” Not long ago, women seldom achieved powerful positions in the workforce. Now that female executives are more common, some men are finding ways to make their stay at the top uncomfortable.

Stories shared by some of the study’s participants include a woman who was doused with water by her male colleagues whenever she would wear a white shirt, and a woman who was groped under the table by a powerful client at a business dinner.

These tactics, according to the study, are employed by men as a way to assert their dominance in the workplace. Sex often has little to do with it.

Source: Human Resources Journal, “Study Says The Lust That Drives Sexual Harassment At The Workplace Is Power Not Sex,” Aug. 30, 2012

Ousted Homestead official proceeds in case

Legal representation for the city of Homestead, Florida, attempted to block legal action taken by its former deputy city manager in a case where workplace harassment has taken center stage. However, just recently, a judge in Florida permitted the trial to move forward and lawyers on both sides can continue gathering evidence to build a case.

The legal action was initially filed in September of 2011 and detailed tales where fellow city officials violated the former deputy city manager’s trust. The woman was fired from her duties in 2009, but at the time, claimed that she was being sexually harassed by the now former city manager. The ousted woman told city officials that she would not pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit if they agreed to pay her severance.

Despite the agreement, city officials still released romantic text messages between the woman and the city manager. This, according to the woman and her lawyers, infringed on her privacy and defamed her.

The opposition argues that the text messages, which were dug up by a third party investigator hired by the city, should be public record because they had to do with business. The defense stated that because the city manager was the woman’s superior, it affected everyday business.

Furthermore, the woman might have hurt herself by providing conflicting accounts of the supposed sexual harassment while on the job. When the former city manager decided to sue Homestead for wrongful termination, the woman was presented as a witness. She stated that she was not offended by the manager’s romantic text messages.

Sexual harassment on the job should never be misinterpreted or used as a bartering tool. The outcome of this suit will have a lot to do with whether the woman was genuinely harassed while employed with the city.

If the woman was taken aback by the romantic text messages, she should have spoken up right away and took her manager to task. Like many others, perhaps she was worried about retaliation and feared losing her job.

Source: The Miami Herald, “Homestead ex-employee’s lawsuit moving forward,” Christina Veiga, July 31, 2012

EEOC sexual harassment victory brings fairness to the fields

When one thinks of sexual harassment, one might picture a woman in a male-dominated environment, such as the police force or fire department, being given a hard time. As a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case illustrates, however, workplace discrimination is sometimes at its worst when the workplace is in a field.

Although such cases do not usually make headlines, sexual harassment in Florida’s tomato farming industry has been a serious problem for years. Too often, the response has been non-existent. Many of the abused female workers are immigrants of limited means and are intimidated into silence by their superiors, who often threaten termination if their lewd requests aren’t granted.

This was exactly the case for two women who, just over three years ago, brought a workplace harassment complaint to the EEOC. The women claimed that their field supervisors, a father and son team, repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward them. One of the supervisors even forced one of the women to touch him inappropriately. When the women complained, they were fired. Now, three and a half years later, they have been vindicated.

The tomato grower, by whom the women and their supervisors were employed, has been ordered to pay each woman $150,000 in damages. In addition, the company must establish an anti-harassment protocol that employees can safely and effectively use to report workplace discrimination to the company. Furthermore, the grower must set up a training program through which employees nationwide will be educated on the discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC, and it must report to the EEOC regularly over the next three years concerning its management of harassment complaints.

The results of this lawsuit are great news for the women involved and their families, for the tomato industry, and for the nation as a whole.

Source: Huffington Post, “Fighting Sexual Harassment in the Fields,” Greg Asbed, July 26, 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:, “Female firefighters in South Florida face discrimination, harassment,” Susannah Bryan, July 9, 2012