September 23, 2019

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WA Supreme Court: 'Harassment is a Form of Discrimination'

2/1/2019

No one should be harassed for being who they are. No one.

 

But it happens, in public spaces, every day. People are targeted and harassed for wearing a hijab, for the color of their skin, and because they are transgender or gender non-conforming. They are sexually harassed at work, at restaurants, and even when they seek medical care.

 

That’s exactly what happened to Rev. Christopher Floeting, who sought health care services on a near-weekly basis from a Group Health clinic. During his visits, he was routinely on the receiving end of sexually explicit comments, sexual advances, and unwanted touching from a patient access representative.

 

We know that the Washington Law Against Discrimination is supposed to protect Washingtonians against that kind of harassment. That's why Legal Voice stood with Rev. Floeting as he fought for his rights.

 

In our brief, we argued that harassment is a form of discrimination – even if a person isn’t denied services outright – and that it impedes a person's ability to access public accommodations. Further, we took down Group Health’s egregious argument that it, as a company, cannot be held responsible for its employee’s actions.

 

This morning, the Washington Supreme Court agreed with us, citing our brief in its opinion. The Court specifically acknowledged that “employers are directly liable for the sexual harassment of members of the public by their employees, just as they would be if their employees turned customers away because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

 

The recent and ongoing federal attacks—on immigrant families, on the LGBTQ community, on people seeking reproductive health care, and so many more—show just how critical state laws are in protecting our health, dignity, and autonomy. Thank you for defending Washington's non-discrimination law with us. 


 

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