Court Upholds Jury Award Based On Repeated Use Of Derogatory Term

Unfortunately despite efforts to eradicate sexism and it’s existence in the workplace, many workers still report instances of harassment, name-calling and negative treatment based on their gender. Either men or women can be victims of sex harassment or sex discrimination. Whenever you are subjected to bias based on your gender you may have a claim under federal discrimination laws. If you suspect discriminatory treatment and are unsure of what to do next, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Georgia discrimination lawyer right away to evaluate your next steps.

Sexual harassment is probably the most well known form of employment discrimination. What is not as well known is just what sexual harassment is. It is not a single instance of name-calling, a request for a date, or a leering look. Rather, in order to prove sexual harassment, you must show that you have been subjected to unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile environment based on your sex that is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of your employment.

What does that mean? That’s a good question. The courts are constantly struggling to define what sexual harassment is and what it is not, and sometimes the results can be quite confusing–the devil is in the details. What is clear, though, is that, whether you’re a man or a woman, if you are subjected to a steady stream of unwelcome and offensive conduct that is based on your sex, and your employer does nothing about it, you may be able to bring a claim for harassment and recover damages as a result.

A recent case looked at whether a supervisor’s repeated name-calling, in this instance referring to a woman as a “bitch” was enough to show that the worker had been subjected to work place sexual harassment. In Passananti v. Cook County the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a jury verdict in favor of the woman should stand and that the Cook County sheriff’s department was responsible for permitting a male supervisor to create a sexually hostile work environment.

The appeals court determined that the use of the word “bitch” could be considered a sexually offensive epithet, and as a result an indication that the supervisor’s conduct occurred “because of” the worker’s sex. The court acknowledged that the use of the word has become all too common in American society, and noted that it even though this word is sometimes used as an insult toward men, the word retains its sex-specific connotation. As a result, the 7th circuit upheld a jury award in favor of the worker.

Determining just what constitutes work place harassment may be difficult and isn’t always clear cut. If you have questions or believe that you have been treated improperly due to you gender, you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. Please contact the top Atlanta sexual harassment lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.