In the last several years, the number of claims of sexual harassment made in the workplace has risen dramatically. The growth has been driven in large part by the #MeToo movement.
The federal agency responsible for enforcing the federal laws against sexual harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, changed its litigation strategy in 2018, increasing the number of sexual harassment lawsuits it filed against employers by 50%.
Because of the increase in the number of claims of sexual harassment, and the fear of increased litigation costs and financial exposure to potential jury verdicts, many employers are firing male employees based solely on allegations of harassment made by female employees, without ever performing any investigation into the truthfulness of the allegations. However, a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit may provide relief for men who are wrongfully terminated in these situations.
In Menaker v. Hofstra University, 935 F.3d 20 (2nd Cir 2019), the Court found “when employers distort and deviate from their policies, fearfully deferring to invidious stereotypes and crediting malicious accusations, they may violate the law.”
Specifically, these employers may be held liable for gender discrimination against these male employees in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on the Menaker decision, male employees fired for sexually harassing a female co-worker may be able to challenge their discharge by filing a charge of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Men accused of harassment need to do several things in response to the allegation.
First, make sure you are aware of your employer’s sexual harassment policy and the employer’s policy on workplace investigations. If unfamiliar with the policies, ask your employer for copies.
Second, provide your employer with the names of co-workers who should be interviewed as part of the investigation. Co-workers who can support the defense and prove the allegations false should not be kept a secret, give the names to the company employees performing the investigation.
Finally, always request a copy of the company’s written report on the results or findings of the investigation and a written explanation as to the reasons for any discipline or discharge decision made by the company. Even if the employer refuses to provide the requested information, there needs to be a record of the accused male employee requesting the information.
If you have been falsely accused of sexual harassment and your employer has terminated your employment, contact the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor; our lawyers can review the facts of your case and may be able to help you file a charge of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.