In the last several years, the number of claims of sexually harassment made in the workplace has risen dramatically. The growth has been driven in large part by the #MeToo movement. The federal agency responsible for enforcing the federal laws against sex harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, changed its litigation strategy in 2018, increasing the number of sexual harassment lawsuits it filed against employers by 50%. Because of the increase in the number of claims of sex harassment, and the fear of increased litigation cost and financial exposure to potential jury verdicts, many employers are firing male employees based solely on allegations of harassment made by female employees, without ever performing any investigation into the truthfulness of the allegations. However, a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit may provide relief for men who are wrongfully terminated in these situations.
In Menaker v. Hofstra University, 935 F.3d 20 (2nd Cir 2019), the Court found “when employers distort and deviate from their policies, fearfully deferring to invidious stereotypes and crediting malicious accusations, they may violate the law.” Specifically, these employers may be held liable for gender discrimination against these male employees in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on the Menaker decision, male employees fired for sexually harassing a female co-worker may be able to challenge their discharge by filing a charge of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.