You know Buffalo Wild Wings -- or B-Dubs as it likes to be called -- it's known for its wings. You could also say it's like Hooters, but without the orange hot pants.
It seems like an employee at B-Dubs thought that he was working at Hooters when he started sexually harassing hospitality manager Michelle Kromer. Managment told her to "play along," according to the Southeast Texas Record. Kromer claims that when she made it clear that she was not going "play along" that she was quickly fired.
B-Dubs allegedly terminated her for the unauthorized use of a gift card. Let's see if Kromer has a case.
According to Kromer’s complaint, she has at least two claims for recovery, wrongful discharge and sexual harassment.
A claim for sexual harassment can be either for the creation of a hostile work environment or for what’s called quid pro quo, which is for situations such as requiring sexual favors to advance in the company or in order not to be demoted. Claims can be based on either one or both.
Here, it seems like there was a hostile work environment, based on the “play along” comment alleged by Kromer. To prove that there was a hostile workplace, she could show that the conduct was frequent, that it was verbal and physical, that it was perpetrated by a co-worker or supervisor, and that the actions were patently offensive, among other factors.
Something is patently offensive if both the person who was in the situation believed it was offensive and a reasonable person in the same situation would find the conduct offensive.
While Texas is in the majority of states that have “at-will” employment, it is still possible to bring a wrongful termination suit against an employer if they have fired you for an improper or illegal reason. There are two ways we can look at this, either as retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, or a quid pro quo situation where Kromer was fired for not submitting to her co-worker’s illegal requests.
While all that an employer usually needs to show is a legitimate reason for termination to avoid a wrongful discharge suit, if Kromer can prove that the supposed legitimate reason is a sham, her suit will survive.
Here, it seems odd that an employee would be improperly using a gift card. True, that would be a good reason to terminate an employee. However, if Kromer can show a direct correlation with her reporting the harassment and her termination, B-Dubs will have trouble no matter what it says the reason for termination was.
Michelle Kromer probably did not bring her Buffalo Wild Wings sexual harassment claim in vain. We’ll see how B-Dubs deals with its employees that don’t allegedly “play along.”
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- How to Avoid Office Party Sexual Harassment (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise Blog)