Boeing Pays for Hostile Work Environment

hostile work environmentSix hostile work environment lawsuits at Boeing. Boeing considers itself to be a stellar employer, one that aspires to build values of respect and that is intolerant of harassment. A jury, however, found that the company fell short of that aspiration, and demonstrated just how serious the shortcomings were with a verdict awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to a disparaged employee.

Details of the Boeing Hostile Work Environment Case

Roderick Marshall was a veteran employee at Boeing, having put in 18 years with the company. He tolerated jokes that were seething with racism without reporting them to supervisors. While management does not dispute this, they did not deal with the situation because, they say, Marshall failed to follow company protocol for reporting complaints.

Then one day, a white employee at Boeing twiddled with a string of rope, eyes on Marshall, Marshall could not have imagined what was to come next  The white man tossed the rope to Marshall, who caught it, only to see that it had been tied into a hangman’s noose. Offended, Marshall had had enough. A jury awarded Marshall $350,000 in damages. Their judgment listed several problems:

  • Boeing failed to prevent harassment;
  • Hiring practices were negligent;
  • Supervision of employees was lax;
  • Retention of problem employees was negligent.

This case highlights the responsibility of employers to police the work environment in order to ensure that employees are safe in all regards. Unfortunately for Boeing, their court days are not over. Five additional lawsuits are currently in the works, all related to discrimination and harassment.  

Defining a Hostile Work Environment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cites particular requirements in defining a hostile work environment:

  • Demonstrations of discriminatory behavior directed toward a protected class (race, gender, age, sex, disability, or religion);
  • Repeated, not isolated events over time;
  • Actions severe enough that a reasonable person’s work would experience interference as a result of feelings of intimidation and/or abuse, or;
  • Actions that prevent an employee’s ability to advance;
  • A failure of management to respond to a known and/or reported situation, or;
  • An insufficient response to the problem.

Building a Healthy Workplace Environment

As an employee, there are a number of things you can do to help build an inclusive work environment. Some suggestions include:

  • Joining company activities and events designed to help employees network and grow relationships;
  • Participating in additional professional organizations;
  • Creating your own social groups with individuals from work, or who can help you with workplace issues.
Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment

In the event you are suffering from a hostile work environment, what should you do? Here are some tips:

  • Keep dated notes about specific issues;
  • File a complaint with human resources;
  • Consider getting counseling to deal with the emotional repercussions.

[Read more…]

Workplace Sexual Harassment Retaliation

workplace sexual harassmentWorkplace sexual harassment. When the vice-principal of one California middle school objected to her principal’s nickname for her (Double D), as well as his comments about the physique and desirability of colleagues, it did not go well for her. If you can relate to institutional sexism in your place of work, you may benefit from the advice of a local employment attorney.

A History of Workplace Sexual Harassment Problems

Principal Pinto had a reputation as a misogynist who overtly disrespected female teachers and staff on a regular basis. The evidence of this lies in the 15 workplace sexual harassment grievances filed against him within one school year. Included in the complaints were these abhorrent incidents:

  • He casually talked about female employees’ breasts;
  • He stated that when one employee was making fish, the odor must have been coming from his vice-principal’s genitals.

Nonetheless, after the complaints were documented with the district, no protections were offered to the complainants. Instead, they faced additional hostility. When Pinto’s vice-principal either excused herself from meetings or broke into tears in reaction to his insults, Pinto’s response was to tell her that she had a choice – either “deal with it or resign.” She chose to deal with it.

The Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Ultimately, a lawsuit was filed citing the following complaints:

  • Sexual harassment;
  • Hostile work environment;
  • Retaliation.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Pinto held sexist opinions and that he believed women should acquiesce to the will of men. Only teachers and staff who were willing to embrace this subservient stance were able to avoid the wrath of Pinto. Others, who were particularly successful or assertive were targeted relentlessly. When Pinto became aware of the complaints against him by his vice-principal, he responded by assigning her less desirable duties and relieving her of responsibilities to lead professional development classes and to evaluate teachers. Another teacher who had experienced problems with the principal and complained also suffered retaliation. After preparing throughout the summer for a California Cadet Corps course, she found the class cancelled by Pinto on orientation day. Eventually, both women were forced to quit altogether.

Now, the district may be liable for punitive damages, compensatory damages, lost wages, lost benefits, emotional distress, and medical expenses associated with the experience.

Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. It may take the form of inappropriate verbal comments and jokes, leering or sexually suggestive gestures, pictures and cartoons, unwelcome physical contact, or the swapping of employment opportunities for sexual favors. When any of these behaviors are shunned or reported and the harasser becomes threatening or retaliates in any way, it is against the law. [Read more…]

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