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Employment Law Blog

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Internal Judicial Discipline and the Lack of Transparency

Q: Should the remedial or disciplinary action imposed in sexual harassment claims against judges be confidential or public?

Sexual-harassment in the workplace, coming from your boss or another superior, is often difficult, frustrating, and frightening.

There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace: Quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment harassment.

In a nutshell, quid pro quo involves a superior demanding sexual favors of an employee as a condition of employment and benefits. But in the hostile work environment type, an employee is subjected to a pattern of unwelcome conduct so severe as to create "an offensive or distressing work environment ". Often, the conduct includes inappropriate comments or visual displays. The victimized employee has the burden of showing not only that s/he believed that the conduct was hostile, offensive, or abusive, but that a reasonable person in the same position would believe it was as well. It should be noted that men may also be also victims of sexual harassment.

Employers may be liable if a coworker commits sexual harassment which the employer knew or should have known about and failed to take action to stop it.

It's understandable that some victims might be reluctant to speak up or commence legal action for fear of retaliation or that they will not be believed.

Especially if the boss in question is a judge.

A female administrative assistant for a Maryland Circuit Court judge finally found the courage after four years to file a complaint accusing her superior of "subjecting her to a sexually charged work environment". Her complaint, to the Administrative Judge, alleged the following inappropriate actions:

  • calling her from vacation claiming he missed her
  • showing her graphic photos
  • commenting on how she looked in certain clothing

The woman allegedly claimed the judge’s behavior toward her was "emotionally draining" and that she "sought therapy to cope with the harassment."

The outcome: the victim was transferred to a different administrative position at her current salary and benefits and the judge was allegedly subjected to "prompt remedial action to redress and prevent any harassing or discriminatory behavior". When the victim pressed for specifics on the alleged remedial action against the judge, she was reportedly advised that the details were confidential, even to her as the victim.

Proving a sexual harassment case can be difficult and part of the process requires the employee to take certain actions in response to the inappropriate conduct. Such actions may include informing the harasser that his conduct is offensive (which can admittedly be difficult for the employee to muster up courage to do) and to advise a supervisor of the offensive behavior. To strengthen the case, the employee must document where and when the harassment occurred and who may have witnessed it. In addition, the victim should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a prerequisite of commencing sexual harassment lawsuit

Damages recoverable in a sexual harassment lawsuit may include back pay, pain and suffering, and punitive damages, depending on the particular circumstances of your claim.

If you feel you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace or you were fired or demoted in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, The Baror Law Firm in Bethesda, Maryland will fight to protect your rights and help you obtain compensation for your damages. Call us at 301-812-4546 for a consultation today. We serve sexual harassment clients throughout Maryland including Bethesda, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and Rockville.

 





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