In a high-visibility claim of same-sex sexual harassment, a female software engineer in California has brought legal action against her supervisor, alleging both sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The plaintiff, an employee at Yahoo, Inc., alleged in her complaint that she was forced on numerous occasions to have oral and "digital" sex with her boss, and that she was promised "a bright future" if she had sex with her supervisor. The lawsuit names the supervisor and Yahoo as defendants.
The plaintiff, a former Microsoft and Zillow employee, alleged that she complained to Yahoo human resources personnel, but they did nothing. To the contrary, said Yahoo officials, who insist that they conducted an investigation and found no evidence to support the allegations. The supervisor, who filed a defamation lawsuit in response to the allegations of sexual harassment, says that the plaintiff was consistently underperforming on the job, and feared that she would be fired. "She made up the entire story…to save her job and avoid losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unvested stock." Records show that the plaintiff had received unfavorable performance evaluations from others at Yahoo.
The U.S. Supreme Court established precedent for the legitimacy of same-sex sexual harassment claims in 1998, in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services. The plaintiff in that case, a male "roustabout" on an oil platform, alleged that he was repeatedly subjected to sexually suggestive comments and actions, was sodomized with a bar of soap, and was threatened with rape. When he complained to appropriate officials, the defendant’s Safety Compliance Clerk responded by calling him a homosexually suggestive name. In its opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court held that "any discrimination based on sex [can be the basis of a lawsuit] so long as it places the victim in an objectively disadvantageous working condition, regardless of the gender of either the victim or the harasser."
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we can help. Call us at 516-873-9550 or 212-661-4370 (toll-free at 1-800-585-4658) or send us an e-mail to schedule an appointment. There is no charge for your first consultation.