Verizon Technician Raises Triable Claim Of Sexual Harassment

In a recent Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the court determined that a female could pursue a claim of gender discrimination based on sexual harassment and disparate treatment against Verizon Communications, Inc., pursuant to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 2d Circuit reversed the lower court decision.

Although sexual harassment is one of the most well known forms of employment discrimination, it is also hard to define. It is not single instance of name calling, requesting a date or inappropriate touching. Rather, it is necessary to show that you’ve been subjected to unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile environment. This conduct must be so sufficiently severe and pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of your employment.

In addition to sexual harassment claims, employees may bring sex discrimination charges where an employer takes adverse employment actions against you because of your sex. This includes failures to hire or promote, and disparate treatment concerning pay, disciplinary actions, suspensions and discharges.

In Pucino v. Verizon Commc’ns Inc., a female cable technician alleged that a male foreman repeatedly referred to her using an “intensely degrading epithet”” and that after she complained of discrimination, she found a large dead snake in her work truck. The technician also claimed that they assigned her less desirable work than male technicians, was required to work in unsafe locations, and the foremen ignored her requests for help. After complaining of disparate treatment, she was told to “get lost” or “go kill yourself.”

A unanimous appeals panel determined that based on these actions a reasonable jury could find that the alleged abuse was “sufficiently severe and pervasive” and that the disparate treatment regarding work assignments, discipline, and access to needed equipment was based on her sex. Further, the 2d Circuit held that although the use of derogatory gender-based verbal abuse may not automatically command an inference of gender based hostility, its repeated use along with other instances of abuse was sufficient to support the inference.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment and discrimination still occur in the workplace. Women are subjected to harassment whether in the boardroom or as technicians in the field. Although one specific act or one name may not be enough to support a claim of sexual harassment or discrimination, a steady stream of unwelcome and offensive conduct may be sufficient.

For more information, or if you believe you have been subjected to workplace harassment or discrimination, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, a Georgia law firm dedicated to protecting employee’s rights in the workplace.