Sexual harassment victims often fired for filing complaints

Posted in Sexual Harassment on March 21, 2014

Most of us have heard and even used the term “adding insult to injury.” While it can succinctly describe a number of common situations, it is more than apt when applied to cases of sexual harassment compounded by wrongful termination of the victim.

It is sadly common for victims of sexual harassment to be met with apathy and even hostility when they have the self respect to file complaints with their supervisors or human resources representatives. They may even be fired because the atmosphere of sexual harassment is creating a distraction or “too much tension” in the work environment. One recent lawsuit seems to be a classic example of adding insult to the injury of sexual harassment.

The case comes from Tennessee, where a woman is suing her former employer; a restaurant called “Uncle Bud’s Catfish Shack.” According to the lawsuit, the woman had been working at the restaurant for less than a month when the harassment began. A coworker somehow obtained “explicit nude images” of the woman and showed them to most if not all of the other employees and supervisors.

The plaintiff then tried to file a complaint and sought help from her supervisors. Sadly, she discovered that they were also allegedly passing her photos around.

She was told there would be an investigation, but this allegedly never happened. Instead, her own hours were cut. She was eventually told that the incident and the pictures were causing “too much tension in the workplace” and that she was being fired.

In summary, the plaintiff suffered deep embarrassment and harassment when nude photos of her were shown to coworkers without her permission and much to her horror. She was the only victim in that incident. Nonetheless, she was subsequently fired for an incident that she did not cause, did not want to happen and had no control over.

While this is a perfect example of adding insult to injury, the phrase somehow seems inadequate to convey the true injustice of the situation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “A Textbook Case of Sexual Harassment,” Kevin Lessmiller, March 20, 2014