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Four Takeaways From an Unusual Sexual Harassment Case

02/18/2019

In this column, LeClairRyan attorney Thomas C. Regan discusses litigation revolving around allegations that a supervisor failed to properly respond to sexual harassment of an employee by a non-employee. Tom provides insight to help employers understand their potential liability and avoid getting ensnared in similar situations.

The #MeToo movement has hammered home for employers the critical importance of keeping sexual harassment out of the workplace. However, a recent federal court case underscores how sexual harassment can occur in ways that defy what many employers might think of as the typical pattern. The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania comes in a case that has nothing to do with a male boss or co-worker behaving inappropriately with a female colleague. It hinges instead on allegations that a supervisor failed to properly respond to sexual harassment of an employee by a non-employee.

That might bring to mind the Hollywood trope of a hardworking waitress forced to regularly endure catcalls or worse by a male customer, but Hewitt v. BS Transportation defies even this familiar scenario. It involves a lawsuit over alleged male-to-male sexual harassment in the world of big rigs and fuel refineries. In court documents, truck driver Carl Hewitt alleges that his supervisor at BS Transportation failed to take prompt remedial action in response to sexual harassment of Hewitt by a male worker at a fuel distribution company’s refinery. Hewitt routinely traveled to the Pennsylvania facility to pick up fuel bound for NASCAR racecars.

The truck driver alleges that the harassment started in 2014 with sexual comments and hand gestures made “at least once or twice a week” by refinery employee Anthony Perillo. He also claims that Perillo’s supervisor and other refinery employees knew of this behavior but did nothing to stop it. After having “begged” Perillo to stop making such remarks, Hewitt alleges that Perillo took even more aggressive actions such as brushing past him and making bodily contact or “parading around” in his undergarments. According to Hewitt’s account, in August 2016, Perillo grabbed Hewitt by the buttocks, shoved him into a truck and asked “Do you like that?” Hewitt claims his manager at BS Transportation promised to “make a report” and “take care of it,” but never told the fuel distribution company about the alleged behavior or investigated it. The plaintiff further claims his manager asked him to stay quiet about the allegations — and fired Hewitt when he brought them up again.

Read the full article at Corporate Compliance Insights here.

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