Lewis v. City of Benicia (USA)

Brian Lewis, a heterosexual man, won his appeal against his former employer, the City of Benicia, and two former supervisors, Steve Hickman and Rick Lantrip, for sexual harassment in the workplace.  According to Lewis,  Hickman showed Lewis images on Hickman’s office computer that included a video of a penis in a rat trap and an image of a woman with lopsided breasts.  Hickman told Lewis “risqué” jokes, including: “‘How do you make your wife moan then scream? You fuck her in the ass and then you wipe it on your drapes.’”

Moreover, the California appellate court found that Hickman’s alleged course of conduct allowed an inference he was pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship with Lewis. Lewis testified Hickman gave him about 30 different items as gifts during the time he worked at the water treatment plant. The gifts included “tuxedo underwear,” with ruffles and a bow tie. Hickman also gave Lewis hats, T-shirts, wine, shot glasses and backpacks. Hickman frequently bought lunch for Lewis. On one  occasion during a break, when Lewis picked up Hickman’s cigarette, Hickman said: “[W]hy don’t you just kiss me[?]”  Hickman also once said Lewis should visit his home.

Same-sex harassment constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. In  Singleton v. U.S. Gypsum Co. and Mogilefsky v. Superior Court, California appellate courts concluded “same-gender (sic) harassment consisting of sexual comments designed to humiliate [a plaintiff] and challenge his gender identity constitutes harassment because of sex,” whether or not such harassment was motivated by sexual interest.

Lewis v. City of Benicia.


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