MCAD Digest: Phillips v. Electro-Term-Hollingsworth…Employee Wins Case Stemming from Coworkers’ Threatening Behavior

Overview: In Phillips v. Electro-Term-Hollingsworth, the MCAD found in favor of the Complainant and awarded back pay plus emotional distress damages for a sexual harassment claim against the Respondent electronic wiring manufacturer. The Complainant, who worked briefly at the Respondent company as a wire harness assembler, had asked coworkers to stop speaking graphically about sex acts in her presence. In response, those coworkers engaged in increasingly threatening behavior to which the Complainant’s superiors provided a limited and unhelpful reaction.

Even though the hearing officer found that the Complainant embellished some of her factual testimony, the officer determined that coworkers did indeed conduct repeated vulgar discussions of sexual acts within earshot of the Complainant and threatened her after she reported that conduct. The employer had a duty to inquire into the specific allegations and failed to conduct a thorough investigation. The hearing officer further concluded that the Complainant’s protected activity of reporting the harassment was the primary reason she had been threatened by termination, and the work environment was sufficiently hostile to support a constructive discharge claim.

Decision Date: May 12, 2017

Docket Number: 10-SEM-02086

Hearing Officer: Judith E. Kaplan

Claims: Sexual harassment and retaliation

Prevailing Party: Complainant

Back Pay: $2,880

Front Pay: $0

Emotional Distress: $5,000

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