A former employee of CBS Radio in Philadelphia has filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit accusing the station of allowing a “toxic” environment of harassment to persist. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 23, 2011, claims unlawful sexual harassment and discrimination, equal pay discrimination, and unlawful retaliation. Injuries include lost pay and benefits, humiliation, anxiety, and “emotional distress.” The suit requests a declaratory judgment, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, liquidated damages, and other costs.
Shelley Kanther began working for CBS Radio’s Philadelphia news station in April 2009 as the director of marketing and communications. She alleges that the harassment and discrimination began almost immediately. Co-workers frequently addressed her as “baby,” she says, spoke loudly about sexual conquests, and offered opinions on whether she was “fiery in bed.” She alleges that the sales staff would slap her buttocks and try to guess her bra size. Some co-workers may have offered her money to kiss another employee. Even female employees, she claims, were resigned to the treatment received from certain male co-workers.
Management knew about the behavior, the complaint says, and did nothing to stop it. She further claims that the senior vice president at the station, Marc Rayfield, was among the worst of the bunch, and describes a business trip to Atlantic City in 2010 where the senior VP made direct sexual overtures to her. When she complained about the behavior, she says the VP fired her in retaliation for speaking out.
The office environment described in Kanther’s complaint is reminiscent of the television series “Mad Men,” which is set in New York City in the early 1960’s. The show depicts an era prior to legal protections against workplace harassment. Sexual harassment in the office setting of the show is not only commonplace, it seems almost habitual for certain characters. Some of the descriptions of Kanther’s work environment even refer to it as a “boy’s club.”
Kanther also claims equal pay discrimination. Her starting salary was allegedly one-sixth to one-third of the amount paid to male employees at the same level as her in the company. The Equal Pay Act requires employers to offer equal pay to employees at the same level in the company’s hierarchy with similar job duties.
Sexual harassment is treated as a form of gender discrimination. Under federal law, gender discrimination in employment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers may not discriminate against employees based on certain criteria, including gender, in facets of employment such a hiring, firing, promotions, salary, job duties, and benefits; and they must take reasonable step to protect employees against hostile work environments based on gender. This includes sexual harassment. Employers also may not retaliate against an employee for asserting rights protected by these laws. Employers who fail in these duties may be liable to an employee for the damages caused by the discrimination or hostile work environment.
The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, fighting to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
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