When Senior-Level Managers Harass: What Employees Need to Know
Boss repeatedly threw coins down woman’s shirt
Being sexually harassed on the job can be extremely upsetting under any circumstances. However, it’s even worse when the harasser is your boss.
Unfortunately, when the perpetrator is a high-level employee or someone who brings in a lot of revenue, some companies may be less likely to take action against the person.
However, employers should be aware that allowing sexual harassment to continue may be gambling with the company’s bottom line. As a case in point, one woman may be able to collect more than half a million dollars over her claim that her employer refused to investigate her complaints about her boss.
Let’s take a look at what happened in this case and then discuss what employees need to know about sexual harassment.
No Touching Rule
Emma Gyulakian had worked at a Lexus car dealership for more than a decade. When a new position opened up in the finance department, she decided to apply.
Emmanuel Ferreira, who was in charge of the department, recommended Gyulakian for the new job. Unfortunately, Ferreira may have had ulterior motives in wanting to have Gyulakian working in such close proximity.
According to Gyulakian’s lawsuit, Ferreira subjected her to sexual harassment on nearly a daily basis for several years. She alleges that he commented about specific parts of her body and asked if they’d ever sleep together so he could finally see her naked.
In order to retain some level of professionalism, Gyulakian says that she was forced to create a “no touching” rule for her boss. But she claims that didn’t stop him from repeatedly throwing coins down her blouse and, on at least once occasion, grabbing her buttocks.
While all of that was upsetting, Gyulakian asserted that it shouldn’t have been particularly surprising to management. In her lawsuit, she pointed out that a former office manager once circulated a memo about inappropriate conduct after overhearing Ferreira discussing anal intercourse in the office.
Gyulakian says that she repeatedly complained to Ferreira’s boss, but nothing was done.
Eventually, the situation created an extremely uncomfortable work environment in the finance department. Gyulakian says that she was called into a meeting with the top brass in which she was told that her deteriorating relationships with her coworkers were a problem. She was fired.
Gyulakian alleges that during her termination meeting she explained that she’d been subjected to ongoing sexual harassment by her boss. However, that explanation didn’t save her job.
After Gyulakian was fired, the company conducted an investigation into her claims. No one in the finance department was questioned because, as the company later explained in court, it didn’t want to undermine Ferreira’s authority in his own work area.
Gyulakian sued the company for sexual harassment. She was awarded $500,000 in punitive damages and $40,000 in compensatory damages.
The company appealed.
The case went to the state Supreme Court, which sided with Gyulakian as well. It found that the company acted intentionally or with reckless disregard to Gyulakian’s claims. It reasoned that there was enough evidence to show that the company should’ve been aware of Ferreira’s behavior.
The court also noted several discrepancies in the company’s investigation. For example, the court found it suspicious that no one in the finance department had been interviewed when those employees would’ve been most likely to witness the harassment.
The case is now before a lower court to re-examine the amount of punitive damages.
(The case discussed here is Gyulakian v. Lexus of Watertown.)
Is Your Boss Harassing You?
As this case shows, it is possible to fight back if you’ve been sexually harassed by your boss or another supervisor.
It’s important to keep in mind that sexual harassment may come in many forms, some more obvious than others. Some examples may include:
- inappropriate touching
- lewd or graphic comments
- invitations to perform sexual acts
- someone continually discussing his or her sexual exploits
- showing a coworker pornographic images
- talking about one’s own anatomy in a sexual way
Harassers or victims may be male or female. The harasser and victim may be of the opposite sex or of the same sex.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you believe that you’ve been sexually harassed at work, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.