Sexual Harassment of Men in the Workplace—Urban Legend or Reality?

Sexual Harassment Claims by Men Continue to Increase

According to a study conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), about 15,000 claims are filed every year alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. Though the total number has been steadily decreasing over the last decade, the number of lawsuits filed by men alleging harassment by female supervisors has tripled, with more than one in ten workplace sexual harassment claims now being filed by male employees against female bosses. A spokesperson for the EEOC acknowledged that that number most likely understates the number of actual instances, as men are far less likely to report workplace sexual harassment than women, mostly out of fear of being castigated by fellow workers.

In a high profile case in Manhattan last year, a male employee of a public relations firm filed a lawsuit alleging that he was terminated after complaining about sexual harassment by two female supervisors. Among the allegations in the lawsuit:

  • Repeated touching by the firm’s co-founder, who allegedly kissed him on the back of the neck, massaged his arms, and rubbed his abs
  • Frequent comments about how "handsome" and "sexy" he was
  • Frequent comments by the firm’s co-founder about her sex life, even comparing the male employee to her "hot lover Apollo."
  • Requests that he poke her abdomen—when the male employee refused, the allegedly grabbed his hand and made him stroke her stomach
  • A text message from another female supervisor asking "[w]hen are we going to have our bang sesh?"
  • A text message from that female supervisor stating that the male employee would "be easier to bang" when he wasn’t a co-worker

The male employee also said alleged that, after the PR firm landed a condom company as a client, the female supervisor tested one on a banana and made references to whether or not the condom would fit on the male employee.

Though the vast majority of sexual harassment claims have been filed by women alleging inappropriate behavior by men, the right to file such a claim has always been available to men. EEOC officials speculate that the increase in filing by men stems from a number of factors. First, there are a lot more female supervisors than there were a decade ago. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court legitimized the claim in a 1998 decision, holding that men had a right to claim sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Many men who have attempted to address the issue without legal action have encountered either disbelief, public humiliation and even counter-allegations. A male worker in education said that when he talked to female supervisors about what he considered a sexually hostile environment, the reaction he got was essentially "you’ve got to be kidding."

Contact Leeds Brown Law, PC

We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. 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 a meeting.