YES, A MAN CAN BE SEXUALLY HARASSED BY A FEMALE CO-WORKER
The Ninth Circuit recently overturned a district court judge’s ruling that a female’s sexual harassment of a male co-worker was not severe or pervasive enough to be actionable. EEOC v. Prospect Airport Services, Inc., No. 07-172221 (9th Cir. Sept. 3, 2010). In doing so, the Ninth Circuit rejected the stereotype that most men welcome sexual advances by a woman, stating “[s]ome men might feel that chivalry obligates a man to say yes, but the law does not.” This held especially true under the circumstances of the case at hand where the male co-worker’s wife had recently died and he simply was not interested in having a sexual relationship with a married co-worker. Perhaps he feared she would file a sexual harassment claim against him that would cause him to lose his job. Perhaps he feared her husband. Perhaps he believed adultery to be immoral given his Christian background and simply was not sexually attracted to her. In any event, it was based on these possible explanations that the Ninth Circuit found a question of fact as to whether the sexual advances were welcome. Unfortunately for the male co-worker, his complaints were laughed at and not taken seriously by his supervisors. Other co-workers mocked him by suggesting he was homosexual. The harassment persisted unabated for months. His performance deteriorated for which he was demoted and eventually fired.