Terribly sorry about the confusion created by my sloppy use of possessive pronouns in today’s lede. The “his” wife refers to the employee’s wife. Otherwise, this post doesn’t make any sense, does it? (Don’t spend too much time contemplating the question, ok).
Yep, just another Tuesday at The Employer Handbook.
Click through for what should prove to be a cluster of a gender discrimination claim contain many valuable takeaways for proactive employers.
Meet the plaintiff Michael Richardson.
Mr. Richardson worked in the maintenance department for Bay District Schools in Florida. His supervisor was his buddy, Jimmy Thompson.
Mr. Thompson appears to have had a thing for Mr. Richardson’s wife:
- He offered money to Richardson’s wife in return for sex;
- He offered money and possibly even a promotion to Plaintiff Richardson if Richardson could convince his wife to have sex with Thompson; and
- He proposed the idea of Thompson and Richardson having sex with Richardson’s wife and other women at the same time.
Or maybe, Mr. Thompson was generally a horny dude who had no problem spending cash for sex. He allegedly asked Mr. Richardson to persuade the waitresses at a lunch restaurant to have sex with Thompson in exchange for money.
Based on these facts, Richardson claimed that he had been subjected to a hostile work environment based on his gender.
There are hostile work environments and then there are hostile work environments.
Now, as lawyers and HR professionals, we often hear employees bandy about the phrase “hostile work environment” to describe problems others create for them in the workplace. Although Mr. Thompson’s alleged behavior certainly had no place in the workplace, it was not enough to create a legally cognizable hostile work-environment gender-discrimination.
Ain’t that right, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (in this opinion):
“While Supervisor Thompson’s conduct was highly offensive and inappropriate, … the record here contains no evidence that Richardson’s gender was the basis for Thompson’s conduct; for example, there is no evidence that Thompson treated men differently than women in the work place. Instead, the record indicates that Thompson directed this conduct towards Richardson because the two were friends and because Thompson was attracted to Richardson’s wife.”
Notwithstanding the outcome, cases like these are great teaching examples when conducting workplace training. That is, you never know when an employee who, at the time, laughs off an otherwise offensive joke, will change his tune once he no longer works for the company.
Therefore, remind your employees not to crack jokes that the average person would otherwise find offensive.
Unless, they’ll blog for me. Because, sometimes I just run out of “A” material…
(Although, I nailed that Cars song today, amirite?)