In Their Own Words

The San Jose Mercury News settled a claim of same sex sexual harassment today. The EEOC filed the claim on behalf of an employee who stated that he withstood lewd comments and inappropriate touching from a mailroom supervisor for a number of years leading him to seek psychiatric treatment. The case was settled for $150,000. You can read it in the Merc, though you have to type in the Claimant’s name (Mark Newton) to find it as it’s buried somewhere in the nether regions of the Business Section.

Since you may have to register to read the article, I’ve spared you yet another reason to use your gmail address and printed it here with full credit:

Mercury News settles sex harassment case
By Scott Duke Harris
Mercury News

The Mercury News will pay $150,000 to a former mailroom employee to resolve allegations of same-sex sexual harassment by his male supervisor, according to terms of a settlement announced today by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Mercury News, which denied wrongdoing, will also reissue its sexual harassment policy and provide additional training to its mailroom employees under terms of the settlement.

Mark Newton, a console technician who had worked at the Mercury News for more than 13 years, said that he had been subjected to about eight months of repeated harassment by a male supervisor — including unwelcome sexual comments and inappropriate touching. Newton said that although he complained to his immediate supervisor, the company failed to investigate or take corrective action in a timely manner.

He took his complaint to the EEOC, which filed the civil case under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Mercury News agreed to settle after pre-suit negotiations with the EEOC.

“I am probably the last person you would expect to find seeking help from the EEOC — a middle-aged white male, married with children,” Newton said in a statement. “The harassment I faced at work is something no one should have to go through — male or female. It was very destructive . . . I can now move on with my life.”

EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo described the settlement as “fair and reasonable.”

The San Francisco Chronicle goes into more detail about the case, even citing (without naming) Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Systems, the case that defined same sex harassment.

Same sex harassment happens a great deal more than we care to admit, but it very rarely makes it to HR, let alone the headlines. There seems to be a certain reticence for employees to bring forward claims that they are being harassed by a member of their own sex. Call it pride, call it embarrassment or call it the prelude to violence in the workplace, harassment is harassment. And harassment can cost employers, if not in money, then in publicity.

Just ask the Merc.