Sex Jokes, Sexual Harassment Make For a Bad Workplace Combination

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By Eric B. Meyer

When offering respect in the workplace training for employees and supervisors, I emphasize that an employee who laughs at sex jokes in the workplace is the same employee who may later sue for sexual harassment.

Like Little Ladner did.

(Yes, Little Ladner)

Ms. Ladner used to work for a nursing home in Mississippi. In her Complaint against her former employer, she alleged a kitchen sink of classic sexual harassment:

  • Her supervisor would stand right over her shoulder while calling sex chat lines.
  • Her supervisor once called her a “stupid bitch.”
  • In front of several co-workers, the supervisor pulled down her pants and underwear.
  • The supervisor squirted cream into a glove like it was his ejaculation and rubbed it on the Plaintiff’s arm.

A bad employer defense

To boot, Ms. Ladner claimed that he supervisor told her that complaining would do no good.

The employer’s defense: “[Ladner] laughed at the incidents she complained of in her Complaint.”

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You know how often this one works — especially in a motion for summary judgment? Rarely. The federal court presiding over Ms. Ladner’s claims in this case wasn’t feeling it either:

Plaintiff has included with her Response the statement of a co-worker who expressed that she “always thought the pranks went way too far, but Ms. Ladner just went along with it, saying that was OK.” Ms. Fleming further stated that “I think that may have been her way of coping with the pranks.” Construing the record evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds that there is a genuine question of material fact as to whether the alleged harassment occurred, and if so, whether it was unwelcome.”

So, Ms. Ladner, who, by the way, did not have a lawyer helping her out and was representing herself, will be able to take her sexual harassment claim to trial.

Dudes, allow me to reiterate that you should not tolerate conduct in the workplace that would make a bishop blush — even if it draws a laugh — because you may be the one shedding tears in the end.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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1 Comment on “Sex Jokes, Sexual Harassment Make For a Bad Workplace Combination

  1. Truth truly is stranger than fiction. Psych 101, folks. Just because your subordinates laugh at your jokes does NOT mean you’re actually funny.

    “The Supervisor also informed the Plaintiff that if the Plaintiff reported the
    Supervisor that nothing would happen because the Supervisor had previous sexual
    relations with the Director of Nursing, the head of the Human Resources
    department.”

    Lord have mercy.

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