How would you feel if someone at work would ask you if you ‘shaved down there’? That’s just one of the inappropriate comments a waitress at a North Carolina restaurant had to put up with for the nine months she worked there? That comment was made by a coworker, but the woman also had to fend off sexual advances from male customers, and her boss found the whole situation funny. When she reported one of the regular customers for sexual harassment, the boss went to the guy, shared a laugh with him and fist-bumped him. And he told the waitress to stop complaining because ‘she enjoyed it’. In the end, she got fired for being too much of a problem. Now, the Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Durham has been slapped with a lawsuit, and this is what should happen to all businesses who take sexual harassment lightly. If you’re in a similar situation, you should contact North Carolina sexual harassment lawyers and see what are your rights.
Employees in North Carolina are protected against sex-based discrimination under the Equal Employment Practices Act, which applies to all private and public businesses with 15 or more employees.
The law distinguishes between two types of sexual harassment and when you talk to a lawyer, they’ll explain the difference between them.
The facts described in the above-mentioned lawsuit amount to a hostile work environment. This refers to an employee constantly harassed by coworkers and, in this case, clients. Once the woman complained to her boss, he was required to take action and make them stop. If an employee is bombarded with lewd comments, sexual references, or has to endure inappropriate touching that constitutes a hostile environment.
The other type of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo, and refers to those situations when a supervisor or anyone from the management asks an employee for sexual favors. Some use the threat of termination, while others try to entice their victims with the promise of a pay raise or a promotion.
No matter what type of sexual harassment you’re being subjected to, experienced employment lawyers can help you put an end to it. The first step is to complain to the management or the business owner. For the Durham waitress, this only made matters worse. Not only was she laughed at, but she was also reassigned to a less lucrative position. For the boss, this move must have seemed awfully clever, but retaliation in such cases is also illegal.
The next step is to file a formal complaint to a state or federal agency. Sexual harassment lawyers can advise you what to do and how to formulate your complaint. When such a dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, the plaintiff is issued a ‘right to sue’ letter and the case will go to court.
The victims of sexual harassment in the workplace are entitled to economic damages, for the lost wages, in case they are fired. They can also get damages for their emotional suffering and the therapy they might need. If the owners dealt with the problem in an inappropriate way they might also have to pay punitive damages.