Sometimes it’s perfectly clear what constitutes a hostile work environment—and other times, not so much. Take the case spotlighted by attorney Eric B. Meyer in The Employer Handbook.
Meyer says plaintiff Michael Richardson worked in the maintenance department of Bay District Schools in Florida, and his supervisor/friend Jimmy Thompson seemed to have a thing for Richardson’s wife. In fact, he says, Thompson allegedly made an indecent proposal if she would have sex with him, and offered money and possibly a promotion to Richardson if he would convince his wife to do so. Thompson also allegedly proposed that the two of them have sex with Richardson’s wife and other women at the same time. If that wasn’t enough, Meyer says, Thompson asked for Richardson’s help persuading waitresses at a lunch restaurant to have sex with him for money.
After all that, Richardson filed a suit, arguing he had been subjected to a hostile work environment based on his gender. Meyer says that although the behavior was certainly inappropriate and surely offensive, it was not enough to create a legally cognizable claim of hostile work environment gender discrimination.
He says the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “Thompson directed this conduct towards Richardson because the two were friends and because Thompson was attracted to Richardson’s wife.”