Iowa man who offered boss sexual favors for more hours loses jobless benefits

By: - November 16, 2021 1:47 pm

An unemployment benefits form. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa man who volunteered to have sex with his boss in order to secure additional hours at work will have to repay the federal unemployment benefits he collected after being fired, a judge has ruled.

The case represents an unusual twist on workplace harassment as it involves a male employee who was accused of trying to solidify his position in the company by offering his boss sexual favors.

State records indicate 30-year-old Jacob Stepp began working as a sales clerk for the Dollar General store in Fayette on Dec. 7, 2020. As a part-time employee, Stepp was looking for more hours and so he spoke with Nikki Everheart, the store manager, about the issue.

On April 1 of this year, Stepp allegedly sent Everheart a text message, pointing out that he was scheduled for only one day the following weekend and asking why his hours were being reduced. In the message, he also told Everheart that, despite what she may have heard, he was a hard worker and got his job done in a professional manner.

He allegedly ended the text by writing, “Idk what you want from me or want me to do to prove to you I want this job. I didn’t want to have to ask this, but are you cutting my hours because u want something sexual?? U wouldn’t be the first boss I had to f— to get more hours, had to do the same thing when I worked at (another company). I’m serious Nikki I’ll do whatever it takes to get at least 3 days a week. Just name what you want and I’ll do it.”

Everheart did not respond to Stepp’s text and immediately forwarded it to the district manager. By day’s end, Stepp was fired based on violations of the store policy that prohibits harassment, including “unwelcome sexual advances,” as well as “unwelcome sexually suggestive texts” and comments.

Stepp subsequently collected $590 in regular state unemployment insurance benefits, as well as $1,200 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

After a recent hearing on Stepp’s eligibility for unemployment, Administrative Law Judge Daniel Zeno ruled that Stepp’s offer to his boss constituted workplace misconduct that disqualified him from unemployment benefits.

“Mr. Stepp sexually harassed Ms. Everheart in clear violation of the employer’s policy,” Zeno ruled. “Mr. Stepp’s April 1 text message was basic – offering sex in exchange for being scheduled at least three days per week – sexist, and disqualifying misconduct.”

Because Dollar General did not participate in an earlier fact-finding hearing on Stepp’s eligibility for unemployment, Stepp will not have to repay the $590 in state benefits already collected, but will have to repay the $1,200 in federal assistance he was given.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.