EEOC v. Prospect Airport Servs., 2010 WL 3448119 (9th Cir. 2010)

Rudolpho Lamas and Sylvia Munoz were co-workers employed by Prospect Airport Services, Inc. at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. Lamas, whose wife died in September 2001, began working at Prospect in the spring of 2002. During the fall of 2002, Munoz, who was married, began a series of rejected sexual overtures toward Lamas. Over the course of several months, Munoz handed Lamas three or four “flirtatious notes,” stating that she was “turned on” by Lamas and that she wanted to “go out” with him. When Lamas informed their boss, Patrick O’Neill, about Munoz’s overtures, O’Neill advised Lamas to tell Munoz the romantic interest was not mutual and to notify management if Munoz “kept it up” so they could “take care of it.” Lamas followed O’Neill’s advice and told Lamas he was not interested, but Munoz did not stop and in fact increased her romantic overtures toward him, handing him a revealing picture of herself while telling him about her “crazy dreams about us in the bathtub” and confirming to Lamas – lest there be any doubt – that “seriously, I do want you sexually and romantically!” Lamas complained to another manager who did nothing to stop Munoz’s unwelcome advances, while yet another told Lamas he did not want to get involved in “personal matters.” Lamas’ co-workers made remarks to him suggesting he was gay. After four or five months of harassment and no protection from management, Lamas’ performance began to deteriorate and eventually he was terminated for “complaints about [his] job performance and negative attitude.”

The district court granted summary judgment to Prospect, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Lamas had established a genuine issue of fact as to whether Munoz’s sexual conduct and comments were welcome – “Title VII 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…Some men might think chivalry obligates a man to say yes, but the law does not.” The court further determined there was sufficient evidence the harassment was severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of Lamas’ employment and that Prospect’s response was “inadequate,” noting that the assistant general manager had advised Lamas to sing “I’m too sexy for my shirt” to himself in response to his complaints about Munoz. See also Breiner v. Nevada Dep’t of Corr., 610 F.3d 1202 (9th Cir. 2010) (male correctional officers could proceed with Title VII challenge to state’s policy of hiring only female correctional lieutenants at a women’s prison).