On September 23, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed this federal lawsuit on behalf of an employee of Boh Brothers Construction Company, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The lawsuit, filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ...
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On September 23, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed this federal lawsuit on behalf of an employee of Boh Brothers Construction Company, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The lawsuit, filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sought a permanent injunction enjoining the employer from engaging in discriminatory employment practices and sexual harassment. The plaintiff also asked that the employer institute a sexual harassment policy and provide backpay with interest along with compensation for emotional stress.
The employee complainant claimed that his supervisor viewed him as excessively feminine, and therefore verbally and physically sexually harassed him, feigned anal sex with him, and urged him to look at the superintendent's penis. When the employee complained, his employer transferred him to a different office with a longer commute, lower pay, and then terminated his employment.
Following a jury trial, Boh Bros was found to have permitted hostile work environment sexual harassment. The jury awarded a total of $1000 in back pay, $200,000 in compensatory damages, and $250,000 in punitive damages; the district court reduced this amount to $301,000 because of statutory limits. The district court also entered injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination. The injunction required the company's chief executive officer to send a letter to all employees "advising them of the verdict against Defendant in this case on the claim of sexual harassment, stating that Defendant will not tolerate sexual harassment or retaliation, and that Defendant will take appropriate disciplinary action against any manager, supervisor, or employee who engages in sexual harassment or retaliation." The court further ordered that Boh Bros. may not rehire the harassing supervisor during the life of the injunction.
Boh Bros. appealed, and in April 2012, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the jury verdict, finding that the evidence did not establish that Boh Bros. had harassed Woods "because of sex." The Fifth Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and in September 2013, a majority of the Court of Appeals found that the law and evidence supported the jury's finding that Boh Bros. had illegally harassed Woods because of sex, in violation of Title VII. The en banc Fifth Circuit also rejected the company's appeal of the district court's entry of a judgment of injunctive relief. Thus, the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals restored the jury's finding of illegal harassment and the injunction. However, it vacated the punitive damage award, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, including setting the proper amount of emotional damages in light of the appellate decision.
On remand, the company agreed to a compensatory damages award of $125,000 (and therefore a total of $126,000 in money damages), ending the case. Sarah Fries - 03/10/2014