Can labor unions be sued for sexual harassment? (Spoiler alert: Yes, and they are costly!)


When most people think of federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they associate them with employees suing employers for things like discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environments.

But Title VII covers more than just employers.

For example, Title VII outlaws any employment practice of a labor organization that discriminates against any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

A Midwest labor union learned this lesson the hard way.

Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the union, claiming it failed to take action against its business agent, despite notice that he previously sexually harassed and verbally assaulted multiple females.

Here’s more from the EEOC’s press release

According to the EEOC’s suit, in September 2020, during a meeting between the male business agent and a female UPS supervisor, he asked others to leave the office where he then cornered her at her desk, propositioned her for sex in the office with the blinds closed and doors locked, ran his hand up her thigh, and proceeded to spread his legs and touch his private parts in front of her.

Over the next day and a half, the UPS supervisor reported the incident to UPS officials and filed a charge with the Boulder Police Department. The [] business agent pled guilty to the criminal charge in Boulder County Court. The business agent’s conviction resulted in an 18-month probation sentence, a community service requirement, a letter of apology, and a restraining order.     

[The union] had been previously aware of similar conduct by the business agent, who is supervised by the union president. [The union] failed to take appropriate remedial measures despite being placed on notice of two prior incidents against women, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and also prohibits retaliation against employees who oppose such miscon­duct. 

I perused the actual complaint last night. If true, that’s some real scumbaggery.

That could be why the union decided to settle, as the EEOC announced last week. The union will pay $85,000 — cheap, if you ask me — and has agreed to other equitable relief such as reviewing and updating its anti-discrimination policies and providing anti-harassment training.

The union must also post an informational flyer about workplace sex harassment at its Colorado office locations and on union bulletin boards at employer business locations where union members are employed.

Probably not an effective method to organize other workers to become members of the union.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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