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Construction

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that it is not “the business of the federal courts generally to clean up the language and conduct of construction sites” and held that an employer who exhibited lewd behavior that was sexual in nature was simply construction site vulgarity and trash talking in “an environment where these characteristics abound.” EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., LLC, No. 11-30770 at 1-2 (5th Cir. Jul. 27, 2012) (vacating the judgment in EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., LLC, 768 F. Supp. 2d 883 (E.D. La. 2011)).

Kerry Woods, an iron worker, alleged that Charles Wolfe, his former job superintendent, sexually harassed Woods in violation of Title VII under a theory of “gender stereotyping” and that his former employer, Boh Brothers Construction Company, LLC, knew of the harassment, failed to discipline Wolfe and retaliated against Woods for making a complaint.

Harassment Photo

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to protect employees from “severe or pervasive” workplace harassment. The potential for employer liability differs depending on whether the “bad acting” employee is a supervisor or co-worker of the complaining party.

If the “bad acting” employee is a co-worker of the complaining employee, the employer will face liability only if it was negligent in discovering or remedying the harassment. If the “bad acting” employee is a supervisor, liability is more easily found. For wrongs by supervisors, the employer can be held “vicariously liable,” meaning the employer can be held responsible for the supervisor’s actions regardless of knowledge or corrective action.

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Two former Fairfax County Firefighters recently pursued sexual harassment claims against Fairfax County in Alexandria Federal Court.  In one case decided in late May of this year, former firefighter Mary Getts Bland received a $250,000 jury verdict.  In early June, a second former firefighter, Stacey Bailey had her claim dismissed on summary judgment. 

Peter Vieth of Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly reports

Both cases involved allegations of a male-dominated culture at Fairfax firehouses, where crude jokesare the norm and one particular officer regularly made explicit and demeaning comments to female employees.