Men are increasingly claiming they’re victims of sexual harassment, an issue that’s gaining more attention in light of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey’s resignation amid claims of sexual harassment by a male former aide.
Sexual harassment claims filed by men with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has grown from 9 percent of all charges in fiscal 1992 to 15 percent in 2003. Many of those claims involve male-on-male harassment; harassment of men by women is rarer, according to legal experts.
“There are more people complaining about it because there’s more attention to it,” says Caroline Wheeler, assistant general counsel with the EEOC. “It’s often the men who are not gay who pick on someone. They pick on men who seem effeminate or not aggressive enough.”
In recent years, major employers have faced lawsuits alleging same-sex harassment by men, with some settlements topping $1 million.
Among the EEOC cases:
Last year, Babies R Us agreed to pay $205,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a male employee in New Jersey who said he was mocked and made the target of derogatory comments by other men.
Long Prairie Packing in Long Prairie, Minn., paid $1.9 million in 1999 to settle a class-action lawsuit by male meatpacking employees who said they were subjected to harassment and retaliation.
Burt Chevrolet and LGC Management, an auto chain in Colorado, paid $500,000 in 2000 to settle a claim by 10 former salesmen who said they were harassed by male managers. The salesmen said their genitals were grabbed, they were subjected to crude sex jokes and a manager exposed himself.
The issue has garnered more attention since the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that same-sex harassment by men may violate federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination. Before that, courts had been divided about the legal standing of such claims.
Since that ruling, federal officials say they have filed more same-sex harassment lawsuits and seen more claims — more than 2,000 such EEOC claims a year, compared with fewer than 1,000 a year from fiscal 1990 to 1992.
The increase is attributed to the court ruling, a greater awareness by men of their workplace rights and the possibility that same-sex harassment is more prevalent.