A woman sharing topless photos at work prolly isn’t an invitation to grope her

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Dear Google User Who Got Five Words Into The Lede And Clicked:

Sorry, this is an employment-law blog. From time to time we have some prurient (look it up) content. Like, this one time, I blogged about a former prostitute who sued for sexual harassment. Sure, I’ve also discussed Playboy-posing cheerleaders, and a place called the Wild Beaver Saloon. And then there was that post about the strip club. Make that posts (plural).

Hey, did I mention that my blog was once named a top Labor and Employment Law Blog by the ABA Journal?

Anyway, to those who got here looking for topless photos, again, I’m sorry. I cannot accommodate (look it up) you. Instead, what I plan to discuss today is this recent PA federal court decision, in which the court shot down another lame attempt by an employer to assert the “she was asking for it” defense in a sexual harassment case.

(Sorry, the court’s opinion has no pictures and I’ve checked the case docket five times — you know, to be thorough and stuff. No pix there either).

Everyone here engages in inappropriate workplace behavior.

The facts here are fairly straightforward. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff, a former employee, brought topless photographs of herself and others to the workplace, initiated sexual conduct by sharing those photos, sent sexually explicit text messages, and made sexually suggestive comments to male coworkers. For her part, the plaintiff admitted having shown co-workers a photograph of a topless woman who had participated in a “wet t-shirt contest” at a motorcycle rally known as “Mountainfest,” but denied showing those employees inappropriate photos of herself.

(Go ahead. I’ll pause while you Google.)

However, the plaintiff denied that she welcomed the subsequent groping and vulgar language that followed from her male co-workers. The defendants did not deny that employees behaved inappropriately. Instead, without citing any supporting case law, they argued that the plaintiff invited this reaction by voluntarily showing her co-workers a photograph of a topless woman.

The “she was asking for it” argument never works in defending a sexual harassment case.

Trust me. It ranks right up there with the “exotic dancer” defense and the “plaintiffs listen to rap music and rappers say ‘n—a’ a lot” defense in a race discrimination case. But some folks have to learn the hard way. And this time was no different, as the court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Takeaway

When conducting anti-harassment training — you’re doing that, right? — please emphasize that behavior that your mother wouldn’t tolerate is no good for the workplace either. It doesn’t matter if the “harasser” didn’t mean anything by that ass-grab. It only matters whether the “victim” is offended. And even if it appears that the “victim” is not offended, trust me, he or she will be once that lawsuit is filed. 

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