TALES FROM THE WORKPLACE: SEXUAL HARASSMENT EXPOSED, Pt. 4

This week, we’re examining the story of Sandra Fuller, taken from the case Custom Tool & Manufacturing Co. v. Fuller.  The allegations that were presented in that case are as follows:

Sandra Fuller began working for Custom Tool & Manufacturing Company as a quality control employee, inspecting wire harnesses for defects in their manufacturing.  In her department, it was common for her to hear sexually-themed jokes and comments, but Sandra was never subjected to direct sexual harassment during her work in that department.  Things changed however, when Sandra was promoted to the position of Plant Manager for the wire harness division.

As plant manager, Sandra reported directly to Custom Tool’s President and sole shareholder, Rodney Cunningham.  Almost immediately after accepting the promotion, Cunningham began making inappropriate sexual comments to Sandra.  For instance, once when Sandra was kneeling down to retrieve an item off a low shelf, Cunningham remarked that he “liked women in that position.”  On another occasion, while Sandra was walking in front of Cunningham, he stated that “the view is really good from back here.”  Cunningham would also often comment on Sandra’s body, asking her, “Where do your legs stop?”

Cunningham started ratcheting up his offensive behavior as time went on, asking Sandra to “bend over further” when she was reaching over her desk.  He also started to bring up the subject of pornographic videos at odd times in conversation, and would make sexually charged comments to her when he personally delivered her paycheck.  Throughout this time, and although she felt extremely uncomfortable, Sandra attempted to maintain a professional attitude by changing the conversation when Cunningham would approach these topics.

One afternoon, Cunningham called Sandra and requested that she stop by his office before leaving the plant.  When Sandra arrived, Cunningham asked her to wait around for a few minutes until the office employees cleared out.  As the last employee was leaving, Cunningham instructed the employee to lock the building door on the way out.  Cunningham then shut his office door, and approached Sandra, telling her that he had been dreaming about her.  He then stated that he wanted her to watch a pornographic video that he had cued up on his office television, because he believed the performer looked like Sandra.  Sandra was dumbstruck and disgusted, watching in terror as Cunningham played the video.  Cunningham quickly began playing another pornographic video, leaned back in his chair and began rubbing his groin.

Sandra told Cunningham that he was “gross” and attempted to leave the office.  As she made her way towards the door, Cunningham grabbed Sandra around the waist, forcibly pulling Sandra toward him against her will.  She pleaded with Cunningham to stop, and demanded he let her leave.  Before Cunningham released Sandra, he begged her to go away with him on an overnight trip.  Finally, Sandra was able to escape Cunningham’s office and retreat home.

After this incident, Sandra discussed Cunningham’s actions with her husband and with the company’s office manager.  She was an emotional wreck, afraid to continue working in an environment in which her boss would act in such a disgusting, threatening manner.  Ultimately, she decided she could no longer work at Custom Tool without constant fear of being harassed by Cunningham again.

Sandra brought suit against Custom Tool & Manufacturing soon after that, and at trial, the jury agreed that she had been subjected to sexual harassment in the form of a hostile work environment.  She was awarded almost $75,000.00 as a result.

If you’ve been subjected to the type of behavior that Sandra experienced, you don’t have to live in fear or worry.  You can, and should, stand up like Sandra did, and confront your harasser.  Sexual harassment is absolutely unlawful, and as is demonstrated in Sandra’s case, you have legal remedies available to you.  In order to fully understand those remedies, you should seek counsel immediately.

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