Sexual harassment in the workplace is a rampant issue as we have seen in the news and on social media. Some of the nation’s most beloved celebrities and public figures have been accused of sexual harassment, and major institutions have even been at the forefront of socio-political discussion as victims continue to come forward. United Airlines is now center stage in that discussion in an EEOC lawsuit claiming the airline enabled a pilot to sexually harass a female flight attendant without being disciplined. The flight attendant, who is named in the federal Complaint as Jane Doe, claims the airline allowed the sexual harassment and hostile work environment to persist.
According to the EEOC’s Complaint, the Defendant posted sexually explicit photos of Jane Doe on pornographic websites, using her name and noting her home airport. Jane Doe says she was in a consensual sexual relationship with the Defendant from 2002 through 2006, and allowed him to take provocative photos of her during the relationship. When their relationship ended, the Defendant began posting the photographs on pornographic sites, instructing potential passengers to “look for her when you fly” because she was the reason to “Fly the Friendly Skies.” Despite her complaints to high ranking managers and the Human Resources Department, the Defendant continued to post the photographs without her knowledge. At all times material, United never disciplined the Defendant for the behavior and he retained full benefits and employment. Other United employees claimed the Defendant showed them the photographs while in the workplace. The EEOC claims United did not conduct a thorough investigation into Jane Doe’s claims, ultimately stating the photos being posted as porn did not constitute sexual harassment. Jane Doe filed criminal criminal charges against the Defendant for stalking her when she broke off the relationship, to which he pleaded guilty. Despite his plea, United failed to discipline the Defendant during the criminal investigation.
The EEOC argues that the Defendant’s unrelenting sexually harassing conduct undoubtedly created a hostile work environment in which United allowed to persist by taking a “passive and ineffective approach” to the harassment. United Airlines is charged with allowing this hostile work environment to persist by not “[instituting or carrying] out policies, programs, practices, and programs which provide equal employment opportunities for women and which eradicate the effects of it’s past and present unlawful employment practices.” Despite Jane Doe’s numerous complaints regarding sexual harassment, the company did not intervene to ensure the sexually harassing behavior would cease. Phillip Moss, a trial attorney from the EEOC’s San Antonio office noted that “employers have an obligation to take steps to stop sexual harassment in the workplace when they learn it is occurring through cyber-bullying via the internet and social media.”
Amid the #MeToo Movement, United Airlines is one of many major companies that has been in the media defending sexual harassment allegations. The Movement has been shining light the growing sexual harassment problem since last October when the tweet from Charmed actress Alyssa Milano created a social media firestorm. Some may say that if Jane Doe did not allow her former lover to take racy photos of her, she could have avoided this outcome. Regardless, consent does not provide a defense for sexually harassing behavior in the workplace, nor does it justify the company not taking action to ensure the workplace is safe from such behavior.
If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, such conduct may be unlawful. The New York City sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC have years of experience litigating claims of sexual harassment, as well as other forms of discrimination based on a person’s membership in a protected class. Working together with our Philadelphia and Miami attorneys, the Derek Smith Law Group has received millions of dollars on behalf of our clients who are the victims of discrimination or survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. If you feel you have been subject to unlawful discrimination at work, please call us at 877-469-5297 for your free consultation