Legal: Be Careful with Your Locker-Room Banter

May 15, 2015

A court case in Southeast Louisiana 10 years ago involving a construction company set a new precedent that protects employees harassed based on gender identity.

Though many have championed the jury’s decision as a milestone for inclusiveness in the workforce, especially for traditionally macho professions such as sports, military, and construction, The Pacific Standard columnist Michael Fitzgerald explores the nuances of this precedent.

“The case was both odder and more significant than most news outlets seemed to notice,” Fitzgerald writes. “The oddity was the technical narrowness of the original complaint – the Civil Rights Act would not have protected [the plaintiff] against a broad range of workplace harassment based on other characteristics—being fat, being ugly, being married to a fat ugly person, having a huge ugly birthmark, or a silly tattoo, living with your mother, sleeping with a felon, being a cuckold, driving a purple Cadillac, having six fingers or one arm.”

In other words, the defendant was free under the Civil Rights Act to be a bully; he just fatefully chose to call the plaintiff, who won the case and received $451,000 in pay back and damages, a “pussy.”

Read the whole column at the Pacific Standard.

Overlay Init