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The Waffle House Sexual Harassment Case

Sexual harassment occurs in two basic ways: "quid pro quo" and "hostile environment. A new case is attracting national attention and illustrating the kinds of misconduct that can indicate quid pro quo harassment.

In this case, a woman claims that the CEO of Waffle House subjected her to sexual harassment while she worked as his housekeeper for almost eight years. Because sexual harassment is a form of unlawful gender discrimination, the woman is now seeking damages to compensate her for the horrific and humiliating experience.

The woman says that the CEO required her to perform sexual acts with him in exchange for keeping her job. This apparently went on for years while the housekeeper was unable to leave the job because she could not find another opportunity with similar pay to support her son.

If these allegations are true, this was a case of textbook "quid pro quo" harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer tries to trade continued employment for sexual favors. If the employee complies, he or she can keep the job or get a promotion. If not, then the employee could face termination.

Like many employers in these cases, the CEO claims that his sexual relationship with the housekeeper was consensual. However, the concept of consent does not always matter in sexual harassment cases. What does matter is whether the employer made employment dependent on sex acts. Whether the employee technically consented to the acts is a different question.

Of course, this case is still at a very early phase and it is unclear whether there is any factual basis for the plaintiff's charges. If they are true, it seems very likely that she will have a strong claim against her former employer.

Source: ABC News, "Waffle House Chairman Sex Tapes Impounded by Court," Christina Ng, Nov. 15, 2012

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