Believe It or Not: Woman Fired for Stopping Harasser from Touching Her
Female staffer complained about supervisor’s inappropriate conduct, but company wouldn’t address the problem
If you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment on the job, you know that it can be an emotionally draining experience. However, it’s even worse if your complaints to your employer fall on deaf ears.
That’s what happened to Shameka Speed during her stint as a behavioral health worker at WES Health Systems.
Not long after Speed began her employment with the company, one of her new colleagues began making sexual advances toward her. On a nearly daily basis, the coworker made explicit and lewd comments to Speed about her body, even going so far as to point to his specific areas of interest.
After months of enduring the man’s inappropriate behavior, Speed complained to her supervisor but nothing was done.
Hall Pass for Harassment
It appears that the coworker may have taken his supervisor’s lack of action as a green light to continue harassing Speed.
His conduct got even worse. The man began intentionally walking close to Speed, so that his body would rub up against hers. Speed started to fear for her safety.
One day, the harasser rubbed Speed’s legs. She warned him that if he touched her again that she would have to defend herself. He didn’t take the warning seriously and reached out to touch her legs again.
Speed raised her arm and struck the man in order to stop him. She immediately reported the situation, but her supervisor was reluctant to step in. He warned Speed that he’d have to file disciplinary reports on both workers since she’d made bodily contact with the male employee.
The company investigated the incident. Both Speed and her harasser were both fired.
Speed got a lawyer and sued the company, stating that she’d been fired in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint.
The company tried to get the case thrown out, arguing that Speed had been terminated for illegally and criminally assaulting another employee.
Speed countered that she’d made bodily contact with the male staffer not to assault him, but rather to defend herself.
The court refused to throw out the case. The judge ruled that Speed shouldn’t have been put in the position of having to endure groping in order to keep her job – especially when her prior complaints were ignored.
(This case is based on Speed v. WES Health Systems.)
What You Should Do if Your Complaints Aren’t Addressed
This case is a good example of how unchecked sexual harassment can escalate to dangerous levels.
Obviously, no person should be put in a position of fearing for their safety while at work. If you’re being sexually harassed on the job and your employer isn’t addressing your complaints, its best to speak to an attorney rather than allowing the situation to continue.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.