In its latest enforcement move to address workplace harassment, the EEOC has filed seven different lawsuits since June 11 seeking damages and an end to alleged harassment across a broad spectrum of settings. The lawsuits are spread across many different industries–from one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, to a staffing agency, and even a milk tea franchise. In three cases, the lawsuits seek to remedy harassment claims on behalf of a class of female workers, three cases involve single female victims, and one case claims male-on-male sexual harassment.
The lawsuits follow the latest session of the EEOC’s agency task force on workplace harassment that focused on sex-based misconduct and finding ways to build on the #MeToo movement. The lawsuits also comport with the agency’s strategic enforcement priorities to increase scrutiny of harassment that occurs in temporary, on-demand, and in other non-traditional employment settings.
“As the nation has seen over the past nine months, harassment at work can affect individuals for years in their careers and livelihoods,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnicin the EEOC’s press release on the filings. “There are many consequences that flow from harassment not being addressed in our nation’s workplaces. These suits filed by the EEOC around the country are a reminder that a federal enforcement action by the EEOC is potentially one of those consequences.”
The allegations in the lawsuits run the gamut of typical sexual harassment offenses–even in the one male on male harassment case. The victims allegedly suffered being subjected to unwanted and offensive sexual remarks, requests for sexual favors by managers, offensive touching and groping and a couple of the cases involve allegations of harassment by a company owner or executive.
The lawsuits are a reminder to employers that the impacts of the #MeToo reach beyond private litigants. Further, employers should be mindful that illegal sexual harassment is not just perpetrated by males as against females but includes employees of any gender engaging or subjected to in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, even male on male sexual harassment.