(CN) – The 9th Circuit allowed a male airport employee to sue his supervisors for allegedly failing to stop a female co-worker from propositioning him. “Men as well as women are entitled … to protection from a sexually abusive work environment,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote.
Rudolpho Lamas and Sylvia Munoz both worked for Prospect Airport Services at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, helping passengers who needed wheelchairs.
Lamas, a recent widower, said Munoz handed him four love notes saying she was “turned on” and wanted to “go out.” He said the harassment escalated, even after he repeatedly rebuffed her advances and complained to their superiors.
Lamas eventually had to seek psychological help because Munoz had allegedly recruited other employees to harass him because he would not give in to Munoz’s advances.
The other employees accused Lamas of being gay.
Lamas complained that every time he walked by Munoz, there was “something, some gesture some ‘Hey, hey’ wording or ‘Whew, whew,’ licking her lips suggestively, and asking if Lamas ‘wanted to have some fun.’ Munoz performed ‘blow job imitations,'” according to the ruling.
One supervisor viewed the harassment as a “joke” and suggested that Lamas walk around singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt.”
Lamas filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf, accusing his supervisors of turning a blind eye to the harassment.
A federal judge found that Munoz’s conduct was not severe enough to amount to sexual harassment, noting that Lamas admitted that most men in his circumstances would have welcomed the behavior he deemed discriminatory.
But a three-judge appellate panel in San Francisco reversed. Title VII, which protects workers from unwanted sexual advances, “is not a beauty contest, and even if Munoz looks like Marilyn Monroe, Lamas might not want to have sex with her, for all sorts of possible reasons,” Kleinfeld wrote.