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Man's Suit Claims Sexual Harassment By Female Co-Worker

Oct 18, 2004 | The Courier-Journal A Louisville man who worked at a local Wal-Mart has sued the company, claiming he was sexually harassed by a female co-worker and then fired when he complained.

In his lawsuit, David Brown claims he repeatedly told his supervisors about the allegedly "offensive and obnoxious conduct" by the woman, but instead was retaliated against and fired because Wal-Mart did not want to deal with the problem.

Brown's lawsuit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleges that the woman made inappropriate comments and touched him on his "buttocks and groin area."

Brown's attorney, said he couldn't remember handling another case in which a man was claiming sexual harassment against a woman.

"It's the exception, not the rule," he said.

Brown's attorney, said he considers the case against Wal-Mart to be strong because Brown lost his job on Oct. 11, shortly after he had complained about being harassed.

Brown, who was a stocker and delicatessen worker, claimed he was told he was being fired because he had been taking long breaks and was still in his first 90 days with the company, according to the lawsuit.

"He had never been warned or counseled or told before that his breaks were too long,"Brown's said.

Bill Vanover, a manager at the Wal-Mart on Ruckriegel Parkway who was named in the lawsuit, said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit and declined to comment. Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gus Whitcomb, said he hadn't seen and couldn't comment on Brown's lawsuit, but said "Wal-Mart has a standing policy of not allowing or condoning harassment of any type at any of its facilities."

Sexual harassment lawsuits filed by men are much less frequent than those by woman, but are increasing, according to statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sexual harassment claims filed by men with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have climbed from a little more than 9 percent of all charges in fiscal 1992 to about 15 percent in 2003.

Carolyn Wheeler, an assistant general counsel with the EEOC, said many of those claims involve male-on-male harassment.

Harassment of men by women is rarer, she said.

Wheeler said women are less often in a position of power to sexually harass a man.

But, she said, "it is just as offensive and people should feel free to file charges about that kind of behavior."

A recent study by the online service found that 17 percent of the men interviewed had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, as opposed to 35 percent of the female respondents. But 60 percent of the men who have felt harassed said they were more likely to do nothing about it, compared with 41 percent of the women.

His attorney said Brown came forward because "he was fired for no logical reason."

In Brown's lawsuit, he claims that the female employee created an intimidating and hostile work environment and that he has suffered embarrassment, humiliation and loss of wages.

Brown declined to comment through his attorney yesterday.

His lawsuit seeks punitive damages and a trial.

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