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Lesson from ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ case: Be alert to female-on-male harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

It’s true that most sexual harassment claims involve a man’s inappropriate behavior toward a woman. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore female-on-male harassment.

In fact, from 1990 to 2009, the percentage of sexual harassment claims filed by men doubled from 8% of all claims to 16%.

Simply put, everyone is entitled to a workplace free of sexual harassment—and employers are obligated to stop such harassment when they find out about it.

Recent case: When Rudolpho Lamas went to work at a Nevada airport, he was a recent widower and devout Christian. One of his co-workers, a married woman, began making advances toward Lamas, sending him suggestive notes. She ignored his requests to stop.

Lamas complained to his boss, who said she’d talk to the woman, but never did. He finally took his complaint to a company executive. But that exec merely told Lamas he should be happy and walk around singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt.”

The co-worker continued to approach Lamas daily. Then rumors began circulating that Lamas must be gay. His work performance deteriorated and he was eventually fired.

He complained to the EEOC, which took up his case. An appeals court sent the case to trial, saying men are also entitled to Title VII protection from a sexually hostile work environment. The court said this employer knew what was happening, but did nothing. (EEOC v. Prospect Airport Services, No. 07-17221, 9th Cir., 2010)

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