Can inappropriate comments alone be sufficient for a sexual harassment lawsuit? Recently, a young female employee of the Central Park Boathouse restaurant sued her married manager for sexual harassment, claiming that he repeatedly made inappropriate comments to her. According to the suit, the man “instantly” began making sexually charged comments to the employee when she was hired in 2013. He bragged about his sexual prowess, made vulgar comments, and asked her inappropriate questions about her body and personal life. The employee complained to the restaurant’s general manager and owner, but was told that the harassing manager would not be fired. After she made the complaint, she was demoted from maître d’ to hostess and given part-time hours. She is suing the managers of the restaurant for unspecified damages. Are vulgar comments in the workplace illegal? Federal, state, and local laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. But what should an employee do if the harassment consists of only vulgar comments? Do inappropriate comments alone count as sexual harassment in the eyes of the law? The answer is that they do, but only in cases where they create a hostile work environment for the employee. Hostile work environment is a form of sexual harassment that occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with his or her ability to work. The behavior in question must either be severe or performed on such a regular basis that the employee becomes distressed. The emotional distress that the employee is subjected to as a result of this hostile environment may make him or her eligible for monetary damages in court. If the employee complains about the harassment to a supervisor and is subsequently fired, demoted, or mistreated, he or she may also sue for retaliation. Several conditions must be filled in order to successfully claim a hostile work environment There are several conditions that must be filled in order for a victim of verbal sexual harassment to claim the creation of a hostile work environment:
  • The employee who files the complaint must be part of a group that is protected under federal, state, or city anti-discrimination laws.
  • The employee must be negatively affected by comments that related to his or her membership in that protected class.
  • The vulgar language must create a hostile atmosphere that is “severe and pervasive” enough to impair the employee’s ability to continue to work.
If you have been subjected to verbal sexual harassment, contact the Akin Law Group All too often, individuals subjected to verbal sexual harassment do not speak out for fear that their claims will be dismissed. They may believe that they will be belittled or ridiculed for being “too sensitive” or “uptight.” If you have experienced verbal sexual harassment in the workplace, know that your concerns are valid, and that your harasser’s actions are wrong and should be put to an end. If you file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your harasser, or against an employer that fails to take action against your harasser, you may be able to not only recover monetary damages, but to also send a strong message that sexual harassment is never okay, no matter the form. Contact Akin Law Group at 866.685.5163 as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with an experienced employment lawyer.