Actually, exposing yourself and leering at a female co-worker may be sexual harassment

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We’re talking full frontal here.

And oddly, it took a federal appellate to figure this out. That is, a female plaintiff alleged that her male co-worker pulled out his penis three times (once to her and her co-worker, and two other times at work to other female co-workers outside of the plaintiff’s presence), allegedly leered sexually at the plaintiff. However, the district court didn’t think that these activities, taken together, were severe enough to create a hostile work environment based on sex. (Among other things, a hostile work environment must involve behavior that is either severe or pervasive).

On appeal, the 10th Circuit (here) wasn’t having any of that nonsense:

His conduct was more than a mere offensive utterance; it was not only physically threatening and humiliating—if true, it was also criminal. The environment was objectively hostile, and Ms. Macias subjectively perceived it to be so, fearing that Mr. Stewart might expose himself to her again or assault her in some way. Under these circumstances, Mr. Stewart’s act of exposing himself, coupled with his alleged sexual leering and the conduct of Mr. Borjas, demonstrates a triable factual issue regarding the severity and pervasiveness of the alleged harassment.

Title VII does not create general civility code for the American workplace. General rudeness and other simple offensive behavior will not create a hostile work environment. However, in any place in the office — other than the men’s room — once the penis leaves the pants, something less than a full-on sexual assault may still create a hostile work environment. Especially if it happens more than once.

Image Credit: Pixabay

 

Updated:
  • “once the penis leaves the pants” — Ugh. That phrase is going to stick in my mind.