Category Archives: Result for Employer

Can you be sexually harassed behind your back?

It might be obvi­ous, but it seems a bit dif­fi­cult to win on a claim for sex­u­al harass­ment where all of the harass­ment occurs behind your back (and by “behind your back”, I mean sit­u­a­tions where the harass­ing behav­ior occurs when the com­plain­ing employ­ee is not phys­i­cal­ly present to expe­ri­ence or hear what is hap­pen­ing).

The Fourth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals addressed this issue in Pueschel v. Peters, 577 F.3d 558 (4th Cir. 2009), in a unan­i­mous deci­sion writ­ten by Judge Roger Gre­go­ry in which Judges M. Blane Michael and Robert Bruce King joined.

The Fourth Cir­cuit didn’t have much dif­fi­cul­ty reach­ing the con­clu­sion that, for any claim alleg­ing a hos­tile work envi­ron­ment (includ­ing sex­u­al harass­ment), you can’t suc­ceed if all of the mis­con­duct about which you com­plain occurred at work when you were not at work.

Twen­ty Eight Years of Lit­i­ga­tion!!!

This case grows out of an incred­i­bly long his­to­ry of lit­i­ga­tion (includ­ing sev­er­al dif­fer­ent law­suits and appeals (some of which were suc­cess­ful)) filed by Ms. Pueschel against her employ­er, the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion (“FAA”). The lit­i­ga­tion start­ed in 1981 and end­ed with this Fourth Cir­cuit deci­sion in 2009 (I am not kid­ding, and I am not sure this deci­sion marks the end of all of her lit­i­ga­tion).

Con­tin­ue read­ing Can you be sex­u­al­ly harassed behind your back?

WV Supreme Court Enforces Employment Arbitration Agreement in Clites v. Clawges, 10–13-09

10–13-09: The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court addressed the enforce­abil­i­ty of employ­ment arbi­tra­tion agree­ments in State ex rel. Clites v. Clawges, 224 W. Va. 299, 685 S.E.2d 693 (2009) (opin­ion at Findlaw’s web site). This Clites deci­sion is dis­cussed in my chart of West Vir­ginia Supreme Court deci­sions.

Clites Goes To Work For TeleTech And Signs An Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment

WV Capitol Building The plain­tiff, Jill Clites, went to work for TeleTech in Octo­ber 2004 as a Cus­tomer Ser­vice Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Dur­ing new employ­ee ori­en­ta­tion, Clites met with a human resources rep­re­sen­ta­tive for about 90 to 120 min­utes, dur­ing which time Clites reviewed and signed a large num­ber of doc­u­ments relat­ed to the ori­en­ta­tion. In the record before the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court, there were dis­putes over whether indi­vid­ual doc­u­ments were dis­cussed with Clites and whether she was required to sing all the doc­u­ments dur­ing the ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion, but it appears that dur­ing that ses­sion Clites signed an arbi­tra­tion agree­ment which TeleTech required of most or all new employ­ees.

Clites remained employed at TeleTech until July 12, 2007, when she was ter­mi­nat­ed. She then filed suit for sex­u­al harass­ment and retal­i­a­tion. Clites alleged she com­plained about the sex­u­al harass­ment, that TeleTech failed to take appro­pri­ate cor­rec­tive action, and that TeleTech retal­i­at­ed against her for the com­plaint by fir­ing her.

Clites Files Suit In West Vir­ginia Cir­cuit Court

Clites filed suit in West Vir­ginia Cir­cuit Court in Mor­gan­town. TeleTech then invoked the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment by fil­ing a motion to dis­miss the law­suit and by fil­ing a sep­a­rate law­suit in fed­er­al court argu­ing that Clites waived her rights to a jury tri­al by sign­ing the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment. In essence, TeleTech argued that Clites gave up her rights to file suit and to a jury tri­al by sign­ing the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment, and that her only rem­e­dy was to file an arbi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ing (with the Amer­i­can Arbi­tra­tion Asso­ci­a­tion) pur­suant to the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment.

Con­tin­ue read­ing WV Supreme Court Enforces Employ­ment Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment in Clites v. Clawges, 10–13–09

Arbitration Agreements in Union Contacts are Enforceable; US Supreme Court in Penn Plaza v. Pyett

USSupremeCourtRightFountain 4/1/09: The US Supreme Court ruled that “pre-dis­pute arbi­tra­tion agree­ments” in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments (union con­tracts) are enforce­able, in Penn Plaza PLLC v. Pyett, 129 S. Ct. 1456 (2009) (5–4 deci­sion).

This was an age dis­crim­i­na­tion case under the Age Dis­crim­i­na­tion in Employ­ment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The plain­tiff was a mem­ber of a union, and the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment (union con­tract) required sub­mit­ting age dis­crim­i­na­tion claims to bind­ing arbi­tra­tion.

The US Supreme Court had pre­vi­ous­ly ruled, but not in a labor union set­ting, that arbi­tra­tion agree­ments for ADEA claims were enforce­able under the Fed­er­al Arbi­tra­tion Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 26–33 (1991)). So the real issue in Penn Plaza was whether there would be a dif­fer­ent result because of the union con­tract set­ting and the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ments in Union Con­tacts are Enforce­able; US Supreme Court in Penn Plaza v. Pyett

WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s policy and prompt action protected it against liability; Colgan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07

West Virginia Capitol Building at Night Octo­ber 25, 2007: In Col­gan Air, Inc. v. West Vir­ginia Human Rights Com­mis­sion, 221 W. Va. 588, 656 S.E.2d 33 (1977) the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court addressed claims of harass­ment (based on reli­gion and nation­al ori­gin) and retal­i­a­tion under the WV Human Rights Act, W. Va. Code § 5–11-1 et seq.

The plain­tiff was a pilot, Rao Zahid Khan, who alleged that his co-work­ers sub­ject­ed him to fre­quent deroga­to­ry and insult­ing com­ments about his nation­al ori­gin and reli­gion (he was Ara­bic). The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court ruled that Col­gan Air (a) was not liable for harass­ment because it had poli­cies and pro­ce­dures pro­hibit­ing harass­ment and took swift and deci­sive action after learn­ing about the harass­ment, and (b) was not liable for retal­i­a­tion because Col­gan Air ter­mi­nat­ed the employ­ee (Mr. Khan) for a legit­i­mate and non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry reason–he failed to pass a manda­to­ry FAA pro­fi­cien­cy test for pilots.

Con­tin­ue read­ing WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s pol­i­cy and prompt action pro­tect­ed it against lia­bil­i­ty; Col­gan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07

US Supreme Court rules pay claims must be filed shortly after discriminatory decision; Ledbetter v Goodyear, 5/29/07

May 29, 2007: In Led­bet­ter v. Goodyear Tire & Rub­ber Com­pa­ny, 550 U.S. 618, 128 S. Ct. 2162 (2007) (Find­Law site opin­ion), the Unit­ed States Supreme Court, in a 5–4 deci­sion, issued an impor­tant deci­sion in a sex dis­crim­i­na­tion case under Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964, which sub­stan­tial­ly lim­it­ed the time peri­od avail­able to assert a claim for pay dis­crim­i­na­tion. The Supreme Court affirmed the deci­sion of the Eleventh Cir­cuit in Led­bet­ter v. Goodyear Tire and Rub­ber Com­pa­ny, Inc., 421 F.3d 1169 (11th Cir. 2005).

Ledbetter’s Claims of Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion and Low­er Pay, and the Tri­al Result

LillyLedbetter Led­bet­ter filed a charge of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion with the EEOC in 1998 and then lat­er in the year retired. She claimed that, years ear­li­er in her career at Goodyear, male super­vi­sors gave her bad per­for­mance reviews com­pared to what men received. She claimed that Goodyear award­ed rais­es based on those per­for­mance reviews, so that her pay rais­es were reduced as a result of the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry per­for­mance reviews.

Led­bet­ter went to tri­al and per­suad­ed the jury that the per­for­mance reviews, years before she filed her EEOC charge, were dis­crim­i­na­to­ry based on her sex, and the jury found her rights had been vio­lat­ed and award­ed her dam­ages based on her low­er pay­checks through­out her career. The tri­al judge entered a “judg­ment” in Ledbetter’s favor based on the jury’s ver­dict. So Led­bet­ter won at tri­al on her sex dis­crim­i­na­tion claim under Title VII. The Eleventh Cir­cuit Court of Appeals threw out the jury ver­dict and tri­al court judg­ment for Led­bet­ter, and entered a judg­ment in favor of Goodyear, based on her fail­ure to file her EEOC charge with­in 180 days of when the per­for­mance reviews had been con­duct­ed. The Unit­ed States Supreme Court affirmed, mean­ing that Goodyear won.

Con­tin­ue read­ing US Supreme Court rules pay claims must be filed short­ly after dis­crim­i­na­to­ry deci­sion; Led­bet­ter v Goodyear, 5/29/07