Women in Sports: A Hotbed for Sexual Harassment Cases

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Barely a week after football Hall of Famer Brett Favre was fined by the National Football League (NFL) $50,000 for “failing to cooperate” in an investigation about the “sexting” scandal with New York Jets gameday hostess Jenn Sterger, two former New York Jets massage therapists surfaced, claiming they were sexually harassed by Favre during the 2008 season.

In their sexual harassment lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, Christina Scavo and Shannon O'Toole alleged that the athlete tried to solicit them for group sex and sent them inappropriate text messages.

According to the complainants, when they refused Favre’s advances and reported the harassment to management, they were warned to keep quiet about the incident and were told that they will never work for the Jets again. Both women were not hired after their complaint. O’Toole and Scavo are seeking unspecified damages over the sexual harassment and loss of income from their jobs.

From Ines Sainz, to Jenn Sterger, to Christina Scavo and Shannon O'Toole, the number of sexual harassment claims filed against teams and athletes show that to this day, sexual harassment is pervasive in sports.

Perhaps it’s because most sports are testosterone-packed or a big boys’ club – but many women are exposed to a sexually hostile work environment in sports.

Under the law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or applicant on the basis of one’s race, color, disability, or sex. Sexual harassment is actually a type of gender discrimination prohibited by the law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines it as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that adversely affects a person's job or her performance.

Both male and female employees can be victims of sexual harassment and this may be committed not just by employers or managers but also their co-workers and clients. Under the law, sexual harassment in the workplace may be committed in two ways:

Quid Pro Quo

This literally means, “this for that”. This is a type of sexual harassment that results to adverse employment decisions (ex. refusing to hire, low pay, firing) if the employee refuses to cooperate or submit to unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.

Sexually Hostile Work Environment

This involves severe and pervasive behavior or conduct from either the employer, manager, co-workers, or clients that is sexually offensive that unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work performance.

The case of O’Toole and Scavo has the elements of both Quid Pro Quo and hostile work environment. The unwelcome sexual conduct and advances which they refused and even reported to management resulted to their loss of employment.

If you are in a similar situation or feel you are being sexually harassed, you should immediately contact a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer to protect your rights. You may call Mesriani Law Group at our toll free number at 1-866-325-4529 or email us at info@mesriani.com for any sexual harassment complaints

From the author: Sexual Harassment