Disabled Civil Rights Attorney Sued for Sexual Harassment

By Andrew Lu on October 08, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Scott Johnson, a quadriplegic attorney from the Sacramento area, best known for representing the rights of disabled individuals has been sued for sexual harassment.

Johnson has sued thousands of businesses for violating the rights of the disabled, but he now finds the tables turned as four of his former legal assistants have named him in a sexual harassment lawsuit, reports the New York Daily News.

The plaintiffs claim they were forced to dress and undress Johnson, place him in swim trunks, and rub lotion on his body, writes the Daily News. They also say that Johnson would look at them in a sexually suggestive manner.

Given that Johnson is a quadriplegic, it is not all that surprising that he would require that his assistants help him with certain everyday tasks like getting dressed. In fact, that may have been part of the job description for his assistants.

However, Johnson can get in trouble if he took advantage of his handicap to sexually harass the assistants. Even if the assistants could have reasonably expected to perform the duties like dressing the attorney, there is nothing that would allow them to be sexually leered at by their boss.

As proof that Johnson hired his assistants on the basis of their harass-ability, the plaintiffs claim that they were given explicit orders by Johnson not to interview "men, ugly women and anyone over 30," reports the Daily News.

Johnson did not formally respond to the allegations. However, a civil rights attorney should be especially aware of the sensitivities in the workplace. Just as disabled persons cannot be discriminated, the same is true for women, older workers, black workers, etc.

It will be interesting to see if Johnson represents himself in the lawsuit. Whether the plaintiffs are successful in their claim may turn on their job description and just what they were expected to do. If dressing/undressing Johnson was part of their job duties, the alleged "sexually suggestive" stares and discriminatory hiring criteria may not be enough to constitute illegal harassment.

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