Often employees who have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace
are terrified about filing a complaint because they fear that they will
lose their job. That is the very reason why retaliation is illegal under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Also, some employees are afraid
to take FMLA leave because they believe that will not be allowed to return
to work. That result is also unlawful.
complaint filed last Tuesday in Texas federal court, Gabrielle Mullins accuses Toyota
Motor Manufacturing of Texas Inc. of refusing to allow her to return from
medical leave since Oct. 11 despite being cleared by doctors in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. She also alleges that
Toyota violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by not allowing
her to return to work in retaliation for sexual harassment and discrimination
claims she lodged with the company and with the U.S. Equal Opportunity
Mullins worked for the company, a Toyota factory in San Antonio, from September
2005 until January 2013, when she went out on leave, according to the
complaint. Mullins' official job title was "team member"
and she was assigned to various departments within the facility during
the course of her employment, including quality inspection, quality assurance
In November 2012, Mullins filed a report with one of her supervisors that
she was being verbally sexually harassed by a colleague. Her complaint,
however, was ignored and she was forced to report both the harassment
and the lack of an adequate response by her supervisor to human resources,
the suit says.
According to the complaint, the HR representative that she reported the
conduct to responded to her harassment claim by saying "I wonder
what you did or said to make him think that he could talk to you like
that?" A perfect example of "blame the victim".
In December 2012, Mullins called Toyota's ethics hot line to again
report that she had been subjected to sexual harassment and that both
her supervisor and the HR representative failed to adequately respond
to her complaint, the suit says.
Mullins was ordered to take a medical leave of absence in January 2013
for an unspecified disability, and two months later Toyota informed her
that it was closing its investigation of her sexual harassment complaint
because too much time had passed to conduct a proper, thorough investigation,
the suit says.
Mullins subsequently filed a charge with the
EEOC alleging sex discrimination, sexual harassment and a sexually hostile
working environment. The agency issued Mullins a right-to-sue notice in
May 2013, but she chose not to bring the case, according to Tuesday's
complaint. I would imagine that she made that decision because she thought
she would be fired if she brought the suit.
But her show of mercy did not work. In October, Mullins was cleared by
both her doctor and by Toyota's medical specialist to return to work
with some restrictions and has since made "made numerous attempts
to return to work, to no avail," according to the suit.
Mullins has identified to Toyota several available positions for which
she has experience and is qualified to perform and that are consistent
with her medical restrictions, but Toyota has refused to return her to
work, the complaint says.
Mullins responded by filing a second charge with the EEOC alleging she
has not been allowed to return to work because of her disability and as
retaliation for her previous sexual discrimination charge, the suit says.
The takeaway: Don't hesitate to enforce your rights if you have been
subject to sexual harassment or if you need FMLA leave. The law is designed
to protect you from retaliation so that you will not be discouraged from