Blown Up Breasts Blown Off by Jury
According to a female TV reporter in New York, she was sexually harassed by male co-workers and then fired because she complained about it. There was no dispute that a picture of the reporter had been doctored to portray her with cartoonishly blown up, large breasts. The reporter also said she was called “Big Butt Booty” and was on the receiving end of sex jokes. The trial against her employer, a Time Warner-owned cable news channel, lasted two weeks.
After 40 minutes (39 of which was used to eat lunch), the jury returned a verdict in favor of the employer. The jury needed only one minute to take a vote that all were in agreement: no sexual harassment had occurred. Why the verdict and why rendered so quickly?
Witnesses testified that the reporter laughed when she first saw the doctored photo and even posed for a New York Post article holding the picture in her hand. The “Big Butt Booty” nickname actually belonged to one of her male colleagues. She had a raunchy sense of humor and enjoyed talking about her breasts. A video shot at a company picnic showed her laughing about the picture. Her contract wasn’t renewed because she wasn’t good at her job.
This case is a good lesson that the totality of the circumstances will determine whether sexual harassment has occurred. At the same time, it’s important to note that the doctoring and display of a photo like this should never be permitted in the workplace. The employee’s behavior made it possible for the jury to find that, under all the circumstances, what happened was nothing more than light-hearted joking among co-workers. If the female employee had reacted differently to the picture and her overall conduct had been more circumspect, doctoring the picture and displaying it several times could have amounted to sexual harassment.