Armstrong & Vaught Prevent Early Judgment for Oklahoma Employer in Horrific Hostile Work Environment Case


Posted by: Chris

Does having the right lawyer really make a difference in an employment discrimination lawsuit? You bet it does. Consider this case, handled by Armstrong & Vaught attorney Chris Vaught, which recently settled for an undisclosed sum.

In 2012, the plaintiff began working for SMG Holdings, which manages and markets the BOK Center here in Tulsa. Her work involved cleaning after events hosted at the BOK Center. Classified as mentally retarded, the plaintiff obtained the job through a vocational rehabilitation service. Some of SMG's employees, including her direct supervisor, her second-level supervisor, and the human resources manager, knew that she had some type of disability and that she "may need 'extra help.'"

The plaintiff alleged that a little over one year after she began working for SMG, in 2013, a co-worker raped her twice at work. Around the same time, the plaintiff's fiancé reported the incidents by telephone, including the name of the offending SMG employee. When SMG officials spoke with the plaintiff, she denied that an assault occurred. SMG terminated the investigation without even interviewing the accused coworker. However, it took steps to separate the two, including not scheduling them on the same shift, for several months.

In 2014, the first time the two were again scheduled at the same time, the plaintiff alleged that the same coworker "forcefully kissed her in a freight elevator without her permission" and displayed his penis to her in a supply closet. Fortunately, she reported this immediately to a security guard.

Two issues were hotly disputed in the lawsuit that followed, and Attorney Vaught prevailed on both on behalf of the plaintiff.

First, SMG took the position that the two 2013 incidents should not be permitted into evidence because they were outside the relevant time frame for filing. Agreeing with Attorney Vaught, the court found that the 2013 occurrences were part of the same hostile work environment. After all, the same person had committed the same type of vile acts against the plaintiff in 2013 as in 2014.

Second, SMG argued that the harassment the plaintiff suffered "was not sufficiently severe or pervasive" to be considered hostile. Again, the court rejected this argument quickly, finding that rape was a form of sexual harassment that was very severe.

Winning on both of these issues, our firm was able to position the plaintiff favorably in pretrial settlement negotiations.

If you're suffering in a hostile work environment, you need an attorney who knows how to argue legal issues in your case favorably. Contact the attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. to arrange a consultation: phone (918) 582-2500 or toll free at (800) 722-8880 or contact us online.