The male Internet manager at Belle Glade Chevrolet-Cadillac-Buick-Pontiac-Oldsmobile Inc. and Plattner Auto Group is suing the company over sexual harassment by a male co-worker who eventually became his supervisor.
Ray Strack’s lawsuit alleges that Brian Paonessa began making sexual overtures shortly after Strack joined the company in 2004, suggesting the two could be “a nice couple.”
Strack says he declined, but Paonessa became more aggressive and intimidating, on many occasions grabbing his own crotch and unzipping his pants and suggesting explicit sexual acts. Strack reported more than a dozen such incidents, including one in which Paonessa reportedly said in front of a supervisor, “Hey, Ray, play with my ____!”
Despite his behavior, much of which took place in front of managers, on the showroom floor and in employee meetings, Paonessa was promoted to sales manager, becoming Strack’s supervisor. The harassment escalated.
Strack complained, but to no avail. In court, the company said Paonessa meant only to tease and intimidate Strack to keep him away from Paonessa’s potential customers.
The court was unimpressed, noting the sexually explicit and aggressive nature of the behavior, and sent the case to trial.
Note: An employee doesn’t have to complain about harassment to trigger an employer’s liability. If managers are aware of it and do nothing, you can be held liable.