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Verrill Dana, LLP

Verrill Dana, LLP is one of New England's preeminent regional law firms. With offices in Portland and Augusta, ME; Boston, MA; Westport, CT; Providence, RI; and Washington D.C. Verrill Dana provides sophisticated legal representation to businesses and individuals in the traditional areas of litigation, real estate, business law, labor and employment law, employee benefits, environmental law, intellectual property and estate planning.  The Firm also has industry-focused specialties including higher education, health care and health technology, energy, and timberlands. 

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Entries in Sexual Harassment (9)


Mass SJC: Failure to Adequately Investigate Sexual Harassment has Consequences - Hundreds of Thousands of Them

Talk about sending a message! Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court just reinstated a $540,000 jury verdict in favor of a finance manager at a Lexus dealer who alleged that her supervisor sexually harassed her and that the dealer then failed to sufficiently investigate her claims. (Slip opinion here.)

At trial, Emma Gyulakian alleged a litany of offenses conducted by her supervisor, Emmanuel Ferreira.1 The jury found for her on her sexually hostile or offensive work environment claim and awarded $40,000 in compensatory damages and a whopping $500,000 in punitives. Lexus of Watertown then filed a Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (jnov) on the punitives award, which the trial court granted, concluding that an employer may not be vicariously liable for punitive damages under Massachusetts law based purely on the actions of its supervisory personnel, and that Gyulakian did not provide the jury with sufficient evidence of outrageous or egregious behavior by Lexus.

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Man Shows Genitals to Co-Workers: Litigation Follows (Vol. 3)

Noted legal scholar Chris Berman once stated that “once is an accident, twice is a trend, three times is a problem.” Or something like that.

At any rate, in today’s installment of the consequences of dropping trou at work, we bring you Davenport v. Nissan North America, Inc. There, Joslyne Davenport, a production assistant at a Nissan plant in Mississippi hired through Kelly Services, Inc., accused Fred Tate of exposing himself to her in September or October 2013. Tate was a line leader on Davenport’s shift, however he did not supervise her. Rather, another employee named Aaron Rodgers1 supervised both of them.

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Employee Shows Genitals to Co-Workers: Litigation Follows

And in other news, scientists have discovered that fire is hot.

Humble reader, I give you Macias v. Southwest Cheese Company, LLC. Or, as I like to call it, the case that says that (allegedly) exposing yourself to co-workers (plural) multiple times and passing around pictures of your  . . . let’s go with manhood, can serve as a basis for a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim.

Aside from the no he didn’t/oh yes he did behavior the opinion details, Macias also illustrates the flexibility of the statute of limitations period in hostile work environment claims. Specifically, as long as an act contributing to the claim occurs within the limitations period, the court can consider the entire time period of the hostile environment, as long as there is a relationship between the acts occurring after the beginning of the filing period and the ones occurring before it. In Macias, the Court considered an untimely event (the employee exposing himself) because it “bore a sufficient relationship to his acts of exposing himself” to another employee within the limitations period.

The decision also shows the importance of regular and comprehensive sexual harassment training.1 Please let us know if you have any questions about this decision, or if our Labor & Employment Group can assist you in any way.

1You know, the kind that makes it clear that dropping your pants in front of co-workers is verboten.


How Not to Handle a “Jezebel Spirit”

The answer is fairly obvious: don’t refer to someone as having a Jezebel Spirit. If this happens, however, and an employee can’t help but make the reference, pray (literally and figuratively) that it is not a manager.

Last month, Lisa McKinley filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army in Roanoke Virginia alleging a sexually hostile work environment. Her allegations included lewd statements from co-workers as well as multiple statements from her supervisor. The supervisor statements began at the time of her interview and are alleged (in the Complaint) to have continued throughout her employment, including statements regarding her dress, perfume, attractiveness and other similar subjects.

Ms. McKinley alleged that Mr. Moffitt referred to her as a Jezebel and noted that he had fallen “under her spell.” Mr. Moffitt allegedly has confirmed that he referred to Ms. McKinley as having a “Jezebel spirit” when the case was pending before the EEOC. This case operates as an important reminder of the importance of not just sexual harassment training, but manager training as well.


Connecticut Public Act no. 15-56: "An Act Protecting Interns from Workplace Harassment and Discrimination"

On June 19, 2015, Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) signed legislation that prohibits Connecticut employers from discriminating against or sexually harassing any unpaid interns. Public Act No. 15-56, makes clear that unpaid interns—while not technically considered employees under Connecticut law—are to be afforded the same protections from discrimination and sexual harassment as all paid employees. The law defines “intern” and identifies the prohibited conduct. In passing this legislation, Connecticut joins a number of other states, including Oregon, New York, Illinois and California, who have adopted similar laws affording protection to unpaid interns. The law becomes effective on October 1, 2015.


“Tie Up” Your Employee Policies to Guard Against “Grey” Areas of Liability

Last week Representative Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives H.R. 901, “The Eliminating Pornography From Agencies Act,” an Act with the purpose of prohibiting the accessing of pornographic web sites from federal computers and for other purposes. While the Act was likely introduced in response to last year’s investigation of an EPA employee who was accused of downloading over 7,000 files of pornography at work on a government computer (and additionally watching said downloads for 2-6 hours a day), it coincides with a number of other national events—like the Hallmark holiday that occurred on Saturday and the release of 50 Shades of Grey in theaters (yup now you see where I was going with that title). With all of these events simultaneously occurring, let’s do a refresher on some of the company policies that should be reviewed to protect yourself from some of the liability that could be hidden within this trifecta.

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