Category: Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment Isn’t Uniquely American

Svetlana Lokhova is a British banker whose job matched something you would expect in a movie or television show. She kept insane hours, made a sizable income (approximately $1.1 million a year), and had to endure a misogynistic, harassing environment.

Lokhova worked for the Russian bank, Sberbank CIB in London. From the outset, she had to endure constant degrading comments and bullying. She was often called “Crazy Miss Cockhead” and “Miss Bonkers” and accused of being a drug addict. Since she was constantly being called these names, the company began to suspect that she actually was on drugs and was forced to undergo a drug test. She tested negative and passed.

On top of the drug addiction taunts, the men of the department had no shame in commenting on her body. On several occasions, she was told that the only reason she got hired was “because of her t—s.” the sexual harassment got so severe, that despite the healthy salary, Lokhova had to leave her position and take a leave of absence. She suffered a mental breakdown.

Lokhova’s claims eventually found its way to the Central London Employment Tribunal who reviewed the case. They ruled in her favor, awarding her the equivalent of approximately $4.7 million. Her award was broken down into lost earnings, damages for hurt feelings, and aggravated damages. The bank was further chastised for not taking proper disciplinary action against the men who were involved. In fact, the ring leader of bunch was given $250,000 to leave the company.

As a result of her traumatic experiences, the Tribunal found that Lokhova may never be able to work in finance again as she is still “suffering from a moderately severe psychiatric illness.”

A Wildfire in Silicon Valley Ignited

After decades of thinking, “this is just the way things are” the defeat of Ellen Pao ignited a new sensitivity to possible gender discrimination, especially in Silicon Valley. Thus far, two new lawsuits have been filed in the technology mecca, both by women complaining of discrimination and bias based on sex.

Elisabeth Sussex, former counsel for wearable technology company Jawbone, file a wrongful termination suit against her former employer. She alleges that over a year earlier, she filed a complaint against the chief technology officer, Michael Luna for his demeaning behavior. Regardless of her performance, Sussex always received a negative review from Luna. The most recent one being only one month before her termination. She was demoted based on, what she alleges to be, inaccurate and fabricated facts.

Sussex was terminated in April 2014. She further alleges that Luna’s behavior specifically turned female employees away and that kind of behavior was saved for female employees only.

Another Silicon Valley lawsuit details not only gender discrimination, but race discrimination and sexual harassment as well. Heather McCloskey worked for Paymentwall Inc., an online based payment system. McCloskley alleges that her supervisor, Benoit Boisset  said she was in need of a good spanking because she was a “bad girl.” Benoit also compared McCloskey’s chest to an airport runway and mimed oral sex acts toward her.

McCloskey complained, in writing to the CEO, and was fired two weeks later. McCloskey, who was only twenty-three at the time of the incident, had work piled on her with impossible expectations—a mere pretext for her termination.

Pao, though not a favorable verdict for the plaintiff, opened many other Silicon Valley women’s eyes to the possible disparate treatment around them.

Source: Daily Journal

The Wolf of Humphrey’s County

Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Wolf of Wall Street” depicts powerful men in high places living a life of sex and drugs. It seems a Humphrey’s County, Tennessee superintendent saw himself as one of DiCaprio’s men. Jimmy Long is now being sued by a bookkeeper for the school district, Teresa Smith.

Smith alleges in her suit that Long bragged about his open marriage and continually propositioned Smith for sex. The bookkeeper complained to county commissioners, as well as the Tennessee State Controller about the harassment. In her email complaint, Smith also accused the superintendent of misusing district funds for his own personal use, and allowed other, retired district officials to do the same.

The embezzlement of funds aside, the bulk of Smith’s complaints stemmed from Long’s overtly sexual behavior. Long grabbed Smith aggressively and in a sexually suggestive way. Often, he would make comments about Smith’s breasts and speak about sexual stimulation products he utilized.

Her complaints, Smith alleges, were continually ignored and eventually led to her termination. The suit seeks lost wages, lost benefits, lost future wages, compensatory and punitive damages.

In California, this falls under a classic case of hostile work environment sexual harassment. Long’s behavior toward Smith was pervasive and created a sexually charged working environment. Long was Smith’s superior, establishing liability on the part of the school district. She also reported the situation to over the superintendent’s house, but she was met with silence. If this situation sounds similar to you in California, don’t hesitate to give our Aegis attorneys a call.

How Social Media and Technology Changed the Landscape of Sexual Harassment

There is a fine line between co-worker and personal friend. Although it was not uncommon for work buddies to turn into friends outside the office before, the rise of technology and social media has often made it increasingly difficult to establish boundaries with co-workers.

In an age of social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and social media related dating applications—Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, OKCupid, casual relationships initiated at the office but facilitated by social media is on the rise. It is now easier than ever to know what your co-worker is doing on the weekend without talking to them than before. It almost makes you feel as if you’re closer with that person, knowing what they are doing when you are apart.

San Francisco employment attorney, David Lowe, commented that “social media…creates more opportunity for people to cross the line between professional and unprofessional conduct.” The instantaneousness of social media and technology allows information, both good and bad, to be accessible at our fingertips.

1 in 4 women in a study conducted by Cosmopolitan Magazine, indicated they have been sexually harassed from lewd texts or emails in the workplace. Others have claim they were confronted with sexually explicit materials on office computers, co-workers’ phones, or find comprising images of themselves leaked to the workplace.

Technology has made sexual harassment more complicated than an inappropriate grab at your body or a drunken wink and smile. In this day, sexual harassment can be a winky emoticon following a comment about your clothing, or a person of the same gender’s email to you, asking for sexual advice when you’re not comfortable speaking about things like that.

Does sexual harassment via social media and technology sound familiar to you? You might not have realized it was harassment, but if you felt uncomfortable, then it could be the case. It’s always a good idea to memorialize any existing messages, photos, emails, etc. that showcase a pattern of uncomfortableness. Be careful of your response too. If you get a winky emoticon and it actually makes you uncomfortable, you are in no way obligated to send a winky back.

Concerned that these circumstances apply to you? Give an Aegis attorney a call.

Source: Forbes & Cosmopolitan Magazine

All the Days of our West Hollywood Lives

This is a tale of soap operatic proportions. Let’s meet the characters of this story, in fair West Hollywood where we set our scene.

First, there is Ian Owens, a deputy to a city council man of West Hollywood. He is accused of bugging a co-worker’s office to prove her of wrongdoing.

Enter the co-worker, Fran Soloman, who is the deputy to another councilman that works with Owens’s boss. She is accused of soliciting unethical campaign contributions for her boss from wealthy developers.

Now comes the two bosses at the heart of the matter. Owens’s boss was Councilman John Duran. He is accused of having a sexual encounter with Owens and then hiring him after they met on Grindr, a dating app for homosexual men. Afterwards, Duran purportedly continued his attempts at a sexual relationship with Owens, despite Owens’s consistent rebuffs.

Soloman’s boss was Councilman John Heilman. Heilman isn’t directly accused of everything but is swept up in this dramatic tale.

So here’s how the story unfolds. Owens, suspecting Soloman was up to no good, reported it to his boss, Duran. Duran refused to entertain the idea because he was upset at Owens for not engaging in a relationship with him. So Owens took matters into his own hands and became what he calls the “whistle blower.” He placed surveillance bugs in Soloman’s office, though Owens’s is now claiming he just heard her through the thin walls. Regardless, after listening to these conversations one way or another, Owens created a spreadsheet of quotes from Soloman’s phone conversations in her office. That spreadsheet was then emailed to city residents and the city’s resident bloggers.

Owens had emailed out the spreadsheet under an alias, but metadata from the document revealed Owens was the creator. He has since been suspended, on paid administrative leave while the city investigates the allegations from all sources. His attorney is claiming that he is being wrongly punished because he was blowing the whistle on Soloman’s wrongdoings.

Owens’s attorney is demanding that his client be restored to his position, outlining the whistleblowing status of his client as well as the sexual encounters between Owens and Duran.

We’ll keep you updated on the every growing drama that is the West Hollywood City Council.

Source: Los Angeles Times