A recent case out of California determined that even though certain allegations
were not raised during the administrative phase of a sexual harassment
case, that those allegations could be raised as part of the civil sexual
Sexual harassment is probably the most well known form of employment discrimination.
What is not as well known is just what sexual harassment is. It is not
a single instance of name calling, a request for a date, or a leering
look. Rather, in order to prove sexual harassment, you must show that
you have been subjected to unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile environment
based on your sex that is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the
terms and conditions of your employment. If you believe you may have been
subjected to sexual harassment it is important to consult with a
Georgia employment discrimination attorney right away.
Medina v. Donahoe, a female postal worker, Carolina Medina, filed a sexual harassment complaint
based on a hostile work environment at the United States postal service.
Her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
contained allegations of sexual innuendo and harassment. Medical records
obtained as part of the EEOC investigation also contained references to
sexual innuendos, gestures and comments.
After the EEOC initially determined no sexual discrimination existed, Medina
filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court containing several
specific instances of harassing conduct, some of which occurred before
and some of which happened after the filing time provided by law. To bring
a federal action on a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must
contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the alleged discrimination
Allegations of sexual harassment included: a co-worker constantly asking
her out despite her refusals, a supervisor slapping her behind, another
co-worked taping a sign in her work area that stated “pre-menopausal
women work here.” On another occasion, Medina claimed a co-worker
pretended to masturbate in her presence and draw “cartoon characters”
depicting her in various poses in sexual situations. She also testified
that in 2004 she was molested and raped by an unnamed co-worker, but she
did not report the incident. During the February 2008 a co-worker drove
by her in a forklift in a threatening manner and stated, “I want
you sexually” and mouthed the words “I want to F you.”
The court determined that although many of these incidents happened before
or after the filing period where an act contributing to a hostile work
environment occurs within the filing period, the entire time period of
the hostile environment may be considered by a court, even if “some
of the component acts of the hostile work environment fall outside the
Here the acts taken together as a whole were allowed and sufficient to
establish a case of a hostile work environment for the entire time period.
Additionally, despite Medina’s failure to specifically allege each
action, the court determined that because the allegations were “like
or reasonably related” to the allegations in Medina’s administrative
complaint and “fell within the scope of” the EEO office’s
actual investigation, that it was permissible to include these actions
within the federal complaint.
Unfortunately sexual harassment still exists in the work place and although
what counts as sexual harassment may not have a precise legal definition,
if you are subjected to a steady stream of unwanted sexual conduct, innuendo
and name calling, you may have a claim.
If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment or any other
type of employment discrimination it is important to contact an experienced
Atlanta sexual harassment lawyer immediately for a confidential consultation and to determine your next steps.