The Storage Room Massage: A Case of Sexual Harassment?
Standard Valve & Gauge Company manufactures safety
relief valves, pressure gauges, thermometers, testing instruments, and spring
disks. The company has three small plants scattered throughout the Southeast.
Each plant employs approximately 325 workers.
Personnel operations are generally centralized at corporate headquarters located
in Atlanta, Georgia. However, the plant superintendent
of each plant is largely responsible for the day-to-day administration of
Bill Winthrop, a Shift Supervisor at the Marshfield plant, had been employed with the
company for about six years. On June 11,1991, Winthrop was terminated by the Plant
Superintendent, Jim Hudson, for sexual harassment of a female employee, Mary
Harper Jones, on June 9 (see Exhibit 1.9). Jones was employed as a laborer in
the Marshfield plant and accused Winthrop of unwanted sexual advances (see
A few months after Winthrop was terminated, the company
received a Notice of Charge of Discrimination from the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), filed by Winthrop alleging that he had been sexually
harassed by Jones on three occasions and that her actions unreasonably
interfered with his work performance and created a negative work atmosphere. He
further alleged that the company failed to take action on his complaints about
Ms. Jones and that he had been unduly discharged (see Exhibit 1.11).
In its reply to the EEOC, the company maintained that
Winthrop was terminated for sexual
harassment and not on the basis of his race, sex, or any other manner of
retaliation. The company also pointed out that after his termination on June
11, Winthrop had applied for unemployment
compensation and the Employment Security Commission office hearing his
appeal agreed that Winthrop was terminated for just cause.
Consequently, Winthrop was disqualified for unemployment
benefits for a period of nine weeks. The commission's report stated, "Winthrop displayed poor judgment in requesting
the 'massage’ and the employer's discharge of the claimant was for good
business reasons to avoid instances of like nature in the future.” The company
argued that his sexual harassment charges were unsubstantiated and should be
dismissed (see Exhibit 1.12). Two weeks after forwarding the letter in Exhibit
1.12 to the EEOC, the Human Resource Director, J. Bevins,
received a letter back from the EEOC (Exhibit 1.13) requesting additional information about the
in Human Resource Management, 4th edition, Nkomo,
Fottler, & McAfee, South-Western, 2000, pp. 25-31)