Did a Double Standard Apply to a Male Victim of Sexual Harassment? Kindergarten Teacher at Southwestern Central School District Files Charge with the EEOC for Sexual Harassment

Friedman & Houlding LLP represents a current employee of Southwestern Central School District (“Southwestern”) who complained multiple times to higher-ups about continuing sexual harassment from his coworker without any follow-up, according to the Charge he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Two different principals on two separate occasions failed to address the male teacher’s complaints of ongoing harassment, and instead flipped the duty on the employee to do what he (“Charging Party”) could to avoid further harm – seemingly a different standard from what would have been applied were the alleged perpetrator male and the victim female.

Southwestern Superintendent Maureen Donahue later admitted, after the harassment continued for well over a year after Charging Party first complained to his school principal, that the Southwestern “should’ve stopped this sooner,” according to our client’s Charge. The Charge raises the question of whether Southwestern would have acted sooner had the complaining teacher been female.

The harassment was well beyond verbal to the point that the harasser was stalking Charging Party both in and out of school. The harassing teacher’s unwanted attention manifested in constant, unwanted physical interference of the Charging Party’s day-to-day activities. As described in his Charge, the harasser relentlessly waylaid the Charging Party throughout the school building, even in his own classroom, with unwelcome presents of pussy willow, notes of love songs, cards, poems, and, on at least one occasion, a bottle of Obsession cologne. https://www.sexualharassmentlawyerblawg.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/187/2024/05/Screenshot-2024-05-03-at-1.19.58-PM-227x300.png

The harasser even followed our client out of school in her car, driving closely behind him even as he entered a fast-food drive-thru and parking area, according to his EEOC Charge. Our client tried to lose his harasser but the traffic was heavy and he did not want to get into an accident. At that point, the harasser got out of her car, ambushed our client at his driver’s side and asked him to come back to her condo with her, prompting him to complain to his immediate supervisor, Principal Langworthy, the now-former principal of the school, the next morning.

In response to Charging Party’s complaint, the Principal told our client that a “white male in today’s society almost has like a bullseye on them,” seemingly to discourage him from taking action.

With no follow-up after complaining to his Principal, Charging Party complained to Langworthy’s successor, the current Principal, as the harassment continued months later. According to his Charge, the current Principal simply told him, “My advice would be to stay away from [your harasser] and avoid any one-on-one situations.” Charging Party testified about this response in a hearing conducted by the District, adding, “And that to me was such a gut punch because everything that had gone on and like, she’s putting the onus on me, like I — I was already doing everything I could to avoid [my harasser].”

Had Charging Party’s gender been different, our client feels strongly that he would not have received the degree of indifference he received from his superiors.

Friedman & Houlding LLP represents victims of sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of the victim’s gender. The firm  obtained a $910,000 verdict on behalf of a male former sheriff’s deputy/firearms instructor who was sexually harassed by a much smaller younger female coworker, in federal court in North Carolina. Our client wants to ensure that other employees’ rights are protected and that there is no double standard for male victims of sexual harassment.






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