In construction, women represent less than 3% of the "front-line" workforce. Studies show that a massive percentage (40%+) of women in construction experience gender-based harassment on the job. This is but one example. The reality is that women working in all traditionally male-dominated areas of work are at an especially high risk of encountering gender-based harassment. One of the main factors in this high percentage is a culture of indifference and/or tolerance among management and a culture of silence among harassed workers in these fields. Don't be one of those women who suffer in silence. If you've experienced harassment on the job, talk to the experienced New York sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates, who can outline all of the options available to you.
S.S. was one of those women dealing with gender-based harassment in a male-dominated workplace. She worked as a construction worker for the New York City Department of Transportation, where only 24% of the department's employees were women.
S.S.'s workplace was not only male-dominated but also allegedly rife with harassment and violence. In 2017, one male colleague "massaged the [woman's] buttocks as she entered a truck" at work. Two other female workers had previously reported the same man for "workplace misconduct." Nevertheless, it took "nine months and multiple complaints" before the city fired the man.
The next year, a male coworker head-butted S.S. so hard she needed medical treatment. Two years after that, enraged by a disagreement with S.S. about scheduling, a different male colleague shoved her "against a wall and choked her while screaming into her face and cursing at her" while only inches from her face. The attack was so intense that two other male coworkers had to pull the angry man off S.S.
Facing this kind of work environment, the woman sought a transfer out of her unit. The city rejected the request. She asked 18 more times and each time the city refused.
Seeking Relief Using Federal, State, and City Law
The woman eventually sued, alleging a gender-based hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.
The city asked the court to dismiss these gender-based claims, but the court denied the motion. The main (and virtually sole) thrust of the city's argument in favor of dismissal was that the woman's allegations never asserted "that she was subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of her gender."
Using Gender-Neutral Events to Show a Pattern of Harassment
As the judge pointed out, however, the law does not require a worker alleging a gender-based hostile work environment to make assert that specifically. Federal law (Title VII) requires courts approaching a worker's gender-based hostile work environment to analyze the "totality of the circumstances." In doing so, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has been clear that "facially sex-neutral incidents" may comprise part of the foundation of a worker's case "so long as a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that they were, in fact, based on sex."
The allegations S.S. submitted were enough. She alleged a sexual assault in 2017 (the buttocks "massaging" incident,) which the court concluded was clearly "an overt sexual act motivated by" S.S.'s gender. She also had the 2018 and 2020 assaults.
Employer Was Dismissive of the Woman's Complaints
In addition to those alleged assaults, the woman provided the court with numerous alleged occasions where she and other female coworkers endured mistreatment by male colleagues, and the department minimized or tolerated the misconduct, responding to the women's complaints with "skepticism and indifference."
S.S.'s allegations, when taken as a whole, supported a viable argument that the woman endured not only a "pattern of mistreatment" but also a hostile work environment because of her gender, according to the court.
Regardless of your gender, you should be free to work in any field regardless of whether that field is male-dominated or female-dominated. Whether a job was historically or traditionally a "man's job" or "woman's work" shouldn't matter; you shouldn't be harassed for your choice of employment. If you've experienced that sort of gender-based harassment, don't assume you are powerless, and don't tolerate it in silence. Instead, get in touch with the skilled New York gender discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. You can contact our knowledgeable attorneys online or by calling (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation. Reach out today to find out what you can do to fight back and how we can help you do it.