Last month I wrote that conduct that is sexual in nature does not necessarily constitute sexual harassment unless it is directed at a person because of his or her sex. But what about conduct that is not necessarily sexual in nature, but really creepy? In other words, can stalking be considered sexual harassment, even if it is not overtly sexual? If so, can an employer be liable when a customer or some other third party is doing the stalking? In a recent case involving Costco, the Seventh Circuit unequivocally found that it can and was.
Wait, what? If the conduct directed at an employee is sexual in nature or has sexual connotations, doesn't that automatically make it unlawful sexual harassment? Not necessarily.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' landmark decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (Case No. 15-1720), which established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the issue of sexual orientation, may be an indication that the Courts are willing to adopt much more inclusive positions towards gay workers and may, as well, keep moving in that same direction with regard to transgender employees. It is quite clear from a review of print and social media that LGBT advocates are becoming much more aggressive in the challenging of perceived discrimination in the workplace. Clearly, the Legal Basis behind the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Decision in Hively could also be used in future Cases to widen the scope of protection for transgender workers.