Employee alleges that company owner continually made her stay late so he could sexually harass her

Wage and hour violations are, unfortunately, very common. As we recently reported, complaints about violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are up by 30% since 2011.

However, we just ran across a case that put a new spin on overtime violations. In this case, a woman claims that her boss repeatedly made her work after hours so he could sexually harass her. The kicker: He then refused to compensate her for the overtime unless she gave in to his advances.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of an unscrupulous employer attempting to use his position of authority to exploit his workers.

Let’s take a look at what happened in this case and then discuss what it means to workers.

Overtime Had Strings Attached

Amanda Malphurs was an hourly office employee for Cooling Tower Systems (CTS). She alleges that during her employment with CTS, company owner Joe Coates subjected her to a constant barrage of sexual harassment and advances.

Malphurs states that Coates frequently asked her to stay late. After the other employees vacated the building, Coates would attempt to touch Malphurs. She says that he would look down her shirt, roughly pinch her breasts, and make sexually explicit requests. She states that on several occasions Coates pressed his genitals against her body.

According to Malphurs’s lawsuit, she began to develop anxiety over Coates’s conduct. She states that she became severely depressed, felt nauseous, suffered panic attacks, and had nightmares that Coates was going to rape her.

While all of this was going on, Malphurs was also fighting another battle. Her paycheck was consistently short.

She claims that she was often asked to work through lunch. If she did not clock out during that time, she states that her time card was modified later to reflect a lunch break.

In addition to working after hours, Malphurs was also often asked to work on the weekends, either cleaning the office or Coates’s apartment. She was told not to note this time on her time card.

When Malphurs complained to Coates about the unpaid overtime hours she was accruing, he gave her $250 in cash. However, he refused to pay her the remaining $1800 unless she gave in to his sexual advances.

Finally, Malphurs had enough. She quit and spoke to an attorney.

She sued for unpaid overtime under the FLSA, as well as for intentional infliction of emotional distress and sexual battery.

The company tried to have the case thrown out. CTS flatly denied all of Malphurs’s allegations relating to Coates’s conduct and to wage violations.

CTS stated that if Malphurs had worked overtime, the company was unaware of it because it wasn’t reflected on her time card. Coates stated that no one in the company worked during lunch, after 5 PM, or on the weekends.

CTS also alleged that Malphurs couldn’t have suffered from emotional distress or sexual battery because she was never injured and she never sought medical treatment.

Malphurs’s legal team countered that the overtime hours did not appear on her time card because she was not allowed to note them.

They also added that CTS had to be aware of the additional hours, because Malphurs did not have keys to the building. Either Coates or a supervisor had to let her in on the weekend or lock up after hours.

Malphurs did not seek medical treatment because she did not have health insurance, argued her attorneys. However, she did speak to her mother and sister, both of whom are nurses.

The court refused to throw out the case. Now CTS will have to defend Coates’s alleged conduct in front a jury.

 (The case discussed here is Malphurs v. Cooling Tower Systems.)

What You Need to Know

While, hopefully, this case is an extreme example of unacceptable working conditions, the fact is that employees are subjected to unlawful behavior all the time. Worse, it can be extremely intimidating when you’re put into a situation of your word against the company’s.

But remember, there’s never any reason to put up with sexual harassment, and you are entitled to fair compensation under the law, with no strings attached.

If you’re dealing with any of these issues at your job, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney to find out what your rights are under the law – and to find out how you can achieve justice.

Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.