What type of comment constitutes sex discrimination in the workplace?

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What type of comment constitutes sex discrimination in the workplace?

I work in property management as a leasing consultant. My company hires another company to do video shops. When this happens someone comes in to the property posing as a potential renter for the apartment. I was on a tour of our apartment community model with a secret shop. While on the tour my manager comes in to introduce himself to my prospect and said to him, “Tracy will take good care of you and she is much nicer to look at”. I feel this is a sexiest comment. This is on video with the agency. Can I sue the company for this unprofessional comment?

Asked on July 13, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This may indeed constitute sex-based employment discrimination or harassment. However, it may still not be worthwhile suing about. As a general matter, lawsuits provide compensatory damages--that is, compensation for any injuries or losses, including economic losses, you have suffered. Unless there are economic losses--you've been passed over for promotion, were paid less than male workers, etc.--there's not much (if anything) to sue for. Sometimes non-economic damages are also available--e.g. punative damages--but those generally require more egregious harassment than a single comment of the type you describe. You could consult with an employment law attorney, to see if you have a worthwhile case, or contact the state labor department, but you should be prepared that this may be a case where something wrong was done, but there is little or no compensation you could obtain.


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