09/04/2012 Opinions: Richard Markuson Shares His Thoughts: Court Misses the Point
Like many of you, I read the ENR op-ed about a construction worker who was harassed on the job and sued. Never a fan of our propensity to use the courts to extract penalties, I was initially skeptical of the case. And I agreed with one of the points made by the appeals court that overturned the trial court and damages award - "It is not the business of the federal courts generally to clean up the language and conduct of construction sites," the judges ruled. It wasn't until I got to the end of the article that I understood more about the case. In a point that would have been better as the lead, is this: "What's more relevant is that Woods declined to join a union amid unionized workers, which is his right. Wolfe and others showered Woods with terms such as 'rat' before Wolfe shifted to sexual humiliations and attacks on Woods' masculinity."
Now the context of the case became clear. It wasn't that Woods was effeminate or gay, (which would have then been grounds to uphold the verdict.) It was that he resisted the pressure to join the unions. So the case wasn't about "job site banter," it was about Woods' decision to work union-free and the thugs who berated him for that-- and probably with a pat-on-the-back from the Business Agent.
Potentially worse is the fact that the mainstream media never picked up on this element. ENR was the only discussion about the case that picked up on that point. And I agree with their conclusion "Given the serious nature of the charge, EEOC should push for Supreme Court review of the case."