I read The Employer Handbook every day. That’ll be $10.”
A federal court has allowed a former prostitute to proceed with claims that her subsequent employer sexually harassed her. More about this defense counsel’s wet dream, after the jump.
DigiCut Systems hired Susan Terry in July 2007 as an administrative assistant. Here’s how I picture the interview:
*** Dramatization — may not have actually occurred ***
DigiCut HR: So, Miss Terry —
Terry: That’s Mrs. Terry.
DigiCut HR: Oh, sorry. It says here on your resume that you were a….
DigiCut HR: Oh. (***wipes saliva trail***) Well, that’s just super. It also says here, under “Special Talents” — never seen that section before — you can swallow a whipped-cream-covered banana whole while performing squat thrusts?
Terry: Yes, sir. And I’m a committed Christian too.
DigiCut HR: When can you start?
*** I’m fairly certain the foregoing exchange never occurred. ***
After commencing her employment with DigiCut, Terry shared with her boss that she had been arrested for operating a brothel and had been known as the “Heidi Fleiss of Tulsa.” Over the next year at DigiCut, Mrs. Terry was propositioned, groped and offered extra cash.(Those facts are true. The only way I could top them myself is if Mrs. Terry’s boss were, in fact, Ron O’Neal from Superfly)In November 2008, there was a companywide layoff and Terry lost her job. Terry filed suit claiming a hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful discharge. Terry argued that that she had changed her life around and was a “born again” “committed Christian” who had turned the page on her cash-for-sex lifestyle. Therefore, the hostile work environment she was forced to endure was unwelcome.Digicut defended by pointing to Terry’s sexual and criminal history, contending that her actions in operating a house of prostitution establish she would not have been offended by her boss’s conduct, as “Plaintiff herself engaged in much more sexually inappropriate behavior than that she now claims offends her.”Based on these facts, the judge ruled that the matter could proceed to trial because Terry’s past history should have no bearing on whether she endured a hostile work environment while working for a subsequent employer.
Takeway: To prove sexual harassment, a plaintiff must prove, among other things, that the defendant’s actions actually offended her. If, however, a plaintiff claims that she was sexually harassed, but the evidence shows that she played along and could “give it as well as receive it,” then she is unlikely to prevail. Notwithstanding, I’m fairly certain that, in the history of mankind, DigiCut’s “she was asking for it” defense has never worked when defending a sexual harassment lawsuit.
So treat each employee as you would want to be treated — no matter what may be in their past.