Sexual Harassment and Constructive Discharge: Prevent, STOP or Pay!

Sexual Harassment Prevention, Law and Investigation Technique Certificate Program
Elga Lejarza-Penn, aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, GPHR

No employee should ever have to endure a sexually degrading and humiliating work environment to make a living.

However, last year the EEOC obtained $56.6 million for monetary benefits to victims of sexual harassment. This is the highest amount ever obtained by the EEOC for Sexual Harassment claims.

Here is the most recent case announced today to settle an EEOC Sexual Harassment and Constructive Discharge Lawsuit:

ATLANTA – Caribbean Farmers Market, a Decatur, GA, supermarket, will pay $25,000 and provide other significant relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that the company violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment which resulted in her constructive discharge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a male Produce Department Manager made unwelcome sexual advances towards his subordinate, Quetsy Cruz, a female Produce Department Associate. Cruz reported to the company that her supervisor harassed her by showing Cruz pornographic photos, repeatedly pressing his groin against her and attempting to coerce her into eating a soup containing his bodily fluids. Despite her complaints, the company failed to take prompt, remedial action to stop the harassment. As a result, Cruz resigned.  

If you would like to learn more about Sexual Harassment Prevention and earn continuing education credits towards your SHRM or HRCI certification please join me at one of my upcoming 2-Day Sexual Harassment Prevention Certificate Programs.

If you would like to learn more about our other certificate programs and earn continuing education credits towards your SHRM or HRCI certification please join me at any one of my upcoming Certificate Program Trainings.

If you would like to learn more about our SHRM-CP®, SHRM-SCP®, aPHR™, PHR®, SPHR® Exam Prep Courses and Boot Camps please check out our upcoming Exam Prep Trainings and check out our Student Testimonials and Success Stories.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.  An employers’ responsibility to prevent sexual harassment of their employees is mandated under federal law.    

In addition to paying $25,000 in monetary relief, the five-year Consent Decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Caribbean Farmers Market from permitting a sexually hostile work environment or otherwise violating Title VII.  The market will provide training on the federal equal employment opportunity laws to all employees and management; implement and distribute an anti-harassment policy in English, Spanish, and Korean; post notice of the lawsuit resolution; and report any complaints of sexual harassment or sex discrimination to the EEOC for the duration of the Decree.

Facts About Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

Elga Lejarza-Penn, aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP

If you would like to learn more about Sexual Harassment Prevention and earn continuing education credits towards your SHRM or HRCI certification please join me at one of my upcoming 2-Day Sexual Harassment Prevention Certificate Programs.

If you would like to learn more about our other certificate programs and earn continuing education credits towards your SHRM or HRCI certification please join me at any one of my upcoming Certificate Program Trainings.

If you would like to learn more about our SHRM-CP®, SHRM-SCP®, aPHR™, PHR®, SPHR® Exam Prep Courses and Boot Camps please check out our upcoming Exam Prep Trainings and check out our Student Testimonials and Success Stories.

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