The topic of employment law has been battled in the courtroom for years and will most likely continue for years to come. Ty Hyderally has been listed among the Top Ten Employment Litigators in Northern New Jersey. Cases such as Oncale v Sundowner help to set the precedent for our employment laws today.
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services was a case for sexual discrimination in which the Supreme Court held that workplace discrimination as applied to harassment in the workplace pertains to instances between members of the same sex. The case was filed by a male who worked on an oil rig. His claim was that he was repeatedly exposed to sexual harassment from other male coworkers, with the full knowledge and agreement of his employer.
Joseph Oncale worked with an eight man crew on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Oncale was repeatedly forced to sex related and humiliating actions by his coworkers while the rest of the crew was present. His complaints to personnel who were supervising resulted in no remedial actions. He was rather labeled as “homosexual” and made fun of further. Eventually, Oncale quit and requested that his pink slip reflect that his voluntary termination was due to sexual harassment as well as verbal abuse.
His original complaint filed against Sundowner Offshore Services stated that he was discriminated against because of his gender. The district court following previous precedents granted the judgment to the defendant stating that because Mr. Oncale was male, he had no case of action under Title VII that protected him from harassment from other male workers. When Oncale appealed the case the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit also supported this decision. However, the Supreme Court did not agree and reversed the decision.
The Supreme Court made a unanimous decision in Oncale’s favor and set a new precedent for future cases dealing with same sex discrimination. The Court’s decision in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services is pertinent to cases which deal with same-sex harassment and other actions of sexual harassment that do not deal with any kind of motivation for “sexual desire.” The Court’s conclusion was that any type of discriminations based on sex can be actionable if it puts the victim in a position of objective disadvantage in the workplace. This is true without regard to the gender of the victim or the harasser. Because this case set the precedent for same sex harassment, it has been acclaimed as a landmark case concerning “gay rights” cases.