11th Circuit Ruling in Sex Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Case Sends Tough Message to Employers in New York and Across the U.S.

A public university in Alabama was recently ordered to pay at least $1.1 million in court costs and fees related to a sexual harassment lawsuit. In Weatherly v. Alabama State University three former Alabama State University (ASU) workers accused two university administrators of inappropriate touching, using racial slurs in the workplace, making sexual comments, retaliation, and creating a hostile work environment. In addition, one of the administrators, Dr. John Knight, allegedly threatened to terminate any employees who cooperated with an ongoing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into the behavior of the other, LaVonette Bartley.

The three women filed their harassment lawsuit against ASU in 2010. Following a 2012 trial, a jury found that all three women experienced a hostile work environment and issued a verdict in favor of the women for about $1 million in collective damages. After the district court entered final judgment, ASU appealed the jury’s verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit first criticized ASU’s failure to adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because of this, the court refused to examine many of the university’s claims due to lack of jurisdiction. After that, the court dismissed ASU’s argument that two of the plaintiffs were improperly awarded front pay. The court held that reinstatement was not an effective remedy and both women attempted to secure substantially similar employment after being terminated from ASU. According to the appeals court, “prevailing Title VII plaintiffs are presumptively entitled to either reinstatement or front pay.” Finally, the three-judge panel stated it was appalled by ASU’s apparent acquiescence to the abusive working environment the three plaintiffs were subjected to and affirmed the jury’s verdict.

In many situations, sexual harassment is about exerting power over a worker. As this case demonstrates, a harasser may be of the same or the opposite sex. Some examples of same-sex harassment may include verbal taunts, inappropriate touching, lewd jokes, intimidation, and flirting. Employees who suffered same-sex or other sexual harassment in the workplace may be eligible to recover damages from their current or former employer for the harm inflicted upon them. If you believe you were sexually harassed by your boss or co-worker, you are advised to discuss your case with an experienced employment attorney.

The hardworking and knowledgeable lawyers at Phillips & Associates have many years of experience representing the victims of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas. At Phillips & Associates, our thoughtful attorneys are available to help you protect your rights at the municipal, state, and national levels. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a caring advocate, please call our hardworking attorneys at (212) 248-7431 or contact Phillips & Associates through our website.

More Blog Posts:

ADA Requires Employers in New York and Nationwide to Provide Workers Who Undergo Fertility Treatments with Reasonable Accommodations, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 11, 2013
EEOC Case Brought on Behalf of Pregnant Applicant Reminds Employers in New York and Elsewhere Pregnancy Discrimination is Illegal, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 4, 2013
Additional Resources:

ASU to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys $1.1M in sexual harassment lawsuit, by Josh Moon, Montgomery Advertiser

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