Volume 7, Issue 11
November 2018
Minimizing Risk in the "New" Sexual Harassment Environment
Last week, numbers were released which indicate sexual harassment charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") increased more than twelve percent as of September 30, 2018. Since January 1, the EEOC has filed 41 sexual harassment lawsuits, a fifty percent increase from last year. In July 2018, the EEOC filed seven sexual harassment lawsuits - six of the seven involved female employees; five of the seven involved purported harassment by a supervisor, manager or owner; and two of the seven alleged failure to distribute the employer's sexual harassment policy and/or properly train employees on reporting procedures.  Continue reading.
Female Firefighter Wins Gender Discrimination Case

Firefighter Dena Lewis-Bystrzycki, a 19-year veteran of the Country Club Hills Fire Department won an $11.2 million jury verdict in Cook County Circuit Court after a two-week trial. The case centered around the suburban Chicago firefighter's claims of being subjected to a sexually toxic working environment, including pornography and sexual taunts from male co-workers, a pattern of denials, destruction of evidence, and aggressive efforts to discredit her over a six year period. Lewis-Bystrzycki filed claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act, including counts of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. During the trial, her attorney revealed Lewis-Bystrzycki had been denied a promotion to lieutenant in 2010, despite being qualified and entitled to the position. The department had allegedly hidden the denial of the promotion until the trial. The jury ruled unanimously to award Lewis-Bystrzycki $11.2 million after only two hours of deliberation. 
Seventh Circuit Denies Dental Assistant's Race Discrimination Lawsuit

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Alfredo Abrego's appeal to revive his race discrimination lawsuit against the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA). Abrego, a Hispanic former dental assistant with the VA had received a favorable performance evaluation, although the court found that there was "substantial evidence" of performance issues that would warrant his suspension and ultimate termination that did not relate to his race. The court used the example that he had friction in interactions with co-workers and patients, arrived late to work and left early, and failed to complete assignments. The Court said these were all legitimate reasons for discipline and overrode any potential race or sex discrimination.
Sheriff Could Be Held Liable for Deputy's Sexual Assault
Reversing a lower court opinion, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Indiana sheriff may be held liable to a woman for a sexual assault committed by one of his deputies. The Court relied on a decision in September by the Indiana Supreme Court in a similar case. Under Indiana law, an employer may be held liable for criminal acts by an employee when the acts arise naturally or predictably from the worker's employment. However, the Seventh Circuit looked at the Indiana Supreme Court's ruling in Cox v. Evansville Police Department to determine that Sheriffs and similar employers may be held liable if the officer abused his "employer-conferred power and authority in committing the sexual assault." The facts of the case against Lake County Deputy Sheriff Samuel Orlich, Jr. show that he abused his employer-conferred power when he assaulted Rebecca Zander. The case will go to a jury to decide if Sheriff John Buncich may be held liable for the assault in his official capacity. 
Upcoming Management Update Seminars

Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. Labor & Employment Attorneys

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