Two high-profile sexual-harassment cases are in the news. One is just beginning, the other has come to a close.
Liza Minnelli settled a lawsuit brought five years ago by her former chauffeur M’Hammed Soumayah that had sought $100 million in damages. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but the settlement meant that Ms. Minnelli would not be required to give a deposition in the case. The chauffeur claimed that his boss got drunk, beat him, and forced him to have sex with her. These allegations, if true, would state a claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This case shows that women are sometimes also accused of being sexual harassers.
In another interesting development, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has just filed a class action against a Brooklyn fish seller, M. Slavin & Sons, accusing it of harassing a group of African-American male employees based on their sex, race and/or national origin (African). This case is getting attention not because of the employer’s fame, but because of the sordid nature of the accusations.
According to the Complaint, the owners and managers engaged in a variety of uncouth acts, including grabbing, pinching and sticking fish hooks (!) into the buttocks of male employees, making crude sexually explicit comments to their employees, using racial slurs (including the “N” word), saying derogatory things about Africa, and retaliating against an employee who complained. This is a textbook example of what not to do, even in a rough-and-tumble workplace like a fish market, and is another case of sexual harassment that differs from the more common male on female pattern.