In a case brought by the EEOC against the Fairbrook Medical Clinic, the plaintiff, Dr. Deborah Waechter, alleged four years of harassment by the sole owner of the family medical center in Hickory, NC. Apparently, the owner created a hostile work environment by routinely making vulgar and sexually explicit comments, repeatedly showing an X-ray of his torso; discussing his sex life, and telling Dr. Waechter’s patients that they could follow up with her when she “return[ed] from screwing.” There were also stupid comments about her breasts, and other rude behavior.
Interestingly, the company tried to defend itself by claiming that because the doctor was a jerk of a boss to all of his employees he didn’t discriminate against any of them.
However, most courts don’t buy this argument, especially if it involves gender-specific comments. The court held that even though the defendant was the plaintiff’s immediate supervisor and sole owner of the clinic, the HR manager and the office manager should have investigated the alleged misconduct. (In the real world, how can you punish your boss?)
My two cents: It’s important for business owners to understand that no matter the size of their company, they can face discrimination and sexual harassment claims at any time. Protect your business against any possible claim by making sure that you have EPL insurance.
On the other hand, I wonder why this professional woman continued to work in an environment where she was not treated properly for four years. The last time I looked, it was called work, not jail. Did she attempt to send out her resume during this time? Was she afraid that her skill set wasn’t good enough to get a job elsewhere? There’s a responsibility on her part, too.
A man once told me that his boss discriminated racially against him for three years. When I asked if he ever took his resume for a spin, he told me he had not. When I asked why he put up with the discriminatory conduct for as long as he did, he stated that “I didn’t want to leave the company because I loved playing on their softball team.” That’s how ridiculous some of these stories can get.
Click here to read the case.