Jeffrey Whitney worked at TJX in Massachusetts, which operates T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, among other stores. He alleged in his complaint that his female supervisor made sexist comments stating that he did not belong working in the fashion business and that he ought to pursue a career that was male appropriate, such as a personal trainer. She also allegedly put him on a two month performance improvement plan "for no good reason".
Whitney also claimed that the supervisor commented he was not "girly enough", that he needed to be "more of a cheerleader", and complained that male employees could not have "girl chat". He was excluded from important meetings, and then when he did attend them, he was asked why he hadn't been at the previous meeting. According to the complaint, the supervisor "micromanaged" him and other male employees and failed to give him the 'necessary feedback" that his female counterparts received.
He further alleged that after he complained of sexual harassment by a coworker who was friends with his supervisor, management placed that person back in the same vicinity as him. He was denied a promotion while less qualified, female coworkers were routinely promoted. He also claimed that, at the request of a company VP, he began "a focus group" for male employees due to the VP's concern that the retention rate for male employees was significantly decreasing. After he reported back to management that many of the males were voluntarily leaving because they believed they were being unfairly pushed out by female managers, his supervisor's harassment worsened to the point that he was forced to resign.
The company tried to have the case dismissed, but the court refused to do so. According to the court, Whitney articulated a complaint that the employee suffered harassment based on his gender that created an abusive work environment and that his employer was made aware of it and did not respond appropriately. Also relevant was the allegation that when he reported the conduct to the company, it became worse, resulting in his termination. This makes for a good retaliation claim.
The takeaway: Hostile work environment claims based on gender discrimination can potentially be brought by men as well as women, if the facts are right.