Harassment based on sex can take many forms. The most commonly thought of form of sexual harassment actually has a sexual motive and may include unwanted propositions, inappropriate remarks, conduct, or physical conduct. However, some sexual harassment does not have to be sexually motivated and may simply be due to a person’s gender, such as making offensive comments about men or women in general. Furthermore, harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or nonconformity to gender stereotypes is also included under the sex harassment umbrella. One California teacher has recently filed a lawsuit against a public school district, alleging harassment and retaliation based on her sexual orientation.
Julia Frost worked as a probationary English teacher at Sultana High School in the Hesperia Unified School District in San Bernadino, CA. Frost is openly lesbian and also worked as a sponsor for the Gay/Straight Alliance, an extracurricular group intended to provide a supportive and safe group for LGBT youth and straight allies. Frost was ultimately terminated and filed a lawsuit against her former employer for harassment and retaliation.
In her complaint, Frost alleges that school administrators generally created a hostile environment for all LGBT persons, students and teachers alike. She claims that when gay students complained to administrators of bullying because of their sexual orientation, administrators discouraged the complaints and instead threatened to “out” the students to their parents. Frost claims that the Gay/Straight Alliance was purposely left out of a school activities handbook and that the announcements of the group were heavily censored. In addition to harassment and discrimination against the students, Frost experienced similar discriminatory actions herself. The alleged harassment against Frost includes:
· Coworkers asking if she was the male or female in her same-sex relationship
· Being accused and investigated for “teaching homosexuality”
· Having administrators frequently observe her classroom to make sure she was not teaching “gay things”
Frost claims that school officials’ actions against LGBT teachers and students were discriminatory, offensive, and created a hostile environment that meets the standard for harassment.
A student came to Frost and told her that another teacher had made the statement “That’s so gay” in a disparaging way and had instructed him to “take the gay headband off.” Frost helped the student print out, complete, and file a complaint form against the teacher for the homophobic comments. Shortly thereafter, the principal called Frost into his office and stated she was not a “good fit” for the school and that her contract would not be renewed. Frost claims she was terminated in retaliation for helping to lodge a complaint against another teacher. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are helping Frost file the lawsuit and we will wait and see the outcome of the case.
Discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on a person’s sex is illegal and is never acceptable in the workplace. If you believe you have been the victim of any type of unlawful discriminatory action at work, you should contact the employment attorneys at Pershing Square Law Firm as soon as possible for help.