Category Archives: Sex Discrimination

Single act may create hostile work environment, according to Seventh Circuit in Berry v. Chicago Transit Authority

A few days ago, I post­ed my arti­cle on PAR Elec­tri­cal Con­trac­tors, Inc. v. Bev­elle , in which the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court ruled that a sin­gle episode involv­ing mul­ti­ple uses of the N-word could cre­ate a racial­ly hos­tile work envi­ron­ment.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sev­enth Cir­cuit just released an opin­ion in Berry v. Chica­go Tran­sit Author­i­ty, – F.3d –, – WL — (7th Cir. August 23, 2010), which rais­es the sim­i­lar issue: Can a sin­gle instance of sex­u­al harass­ment cre­ate a hos­tile work envi­ron­ment? And the answer was yes, depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances.

Ms. Berry is Sex­u­al­ly Harassed in a Sin­gle Inci­dent

Cyn­thia Berry was an employ­ee at the Chica­go Tran­sit Author­i­ty. She was on her break and sat at a pic­nic style table with three male co-work­ers. A fourth male co-work­er, Philip Carmichael, had fol­lowed her to the pic­nic area and ordered Ms. Berry to get up from the table. Offend­ed by Mr. Carmichael’s “com­mand­ing tone”, Ms. Berry remained seat­ed. Mr. Carmichael then sat down and “strad­dled the bench” so he was fac­ing one of the male co-work­ers at the pic­nic table, and so that Mr. Carmichael’s back was close to Ms. Berry. The oth­er three male co-work­ers got up from where they were seat­ed at the pic­nic table and moved to the oth­er end of the table. Then:

Berry says Carmichael remained where he was seat­ed and began rub­bing his back against her shoul­der. She jumped up, told him not to rub him­self against her, and sat down next to Hardy at the oth­er end of the table. At this point,
Berry says, Mar­shall began telling her to get up from the table again. Not want­i­ng Mar­shall to think he could order her around, she remained seat­ed, but began rub­bing her tem­ples to com­pose her­self. Accord­ing to Berry, she next felt Carmichael grab­bing her breasts and lift­ing her up from the bench. Hold­ing her in the air, he rubbed her but­tocks against the front of his body—from his chest to his penis—three times before bring­ing her to the ground with force. Berry land­ed off-bal­ance, with only one leg on the ground, and says Carmichael then pushed her into a fence. Upset and want­i­ng to avoid any men, she lay down in a bus for the rest of her shift.

 

Con­tin­ue read­ing Sin­gle act may cre­ate hos­tile work envi­ron­ment, accord­ing to Sev­enth Cir­cuit in Berry v. Chica­go Tran­sit Author­i­ty

Sorry boss, I didn’t know you were having sex in the office!!

The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court recent­ly issued an opin­ion deal­ing with one of those stereo­typ­i­cal­ly awk­ward sit­u­a­tions, where an employ­ee alleged­ly stum­bles into a room where the boss is hav­ing sex with a co-work­er. The deci­sion was  Roth v. DeFe­lice­Care, Inc., – W. Va. –, — S.E.2d –, 2010 WL 2346248 (June 8, 2010) (per curi­am). It was a 3–2 deci­sion, in which the 3-vote major­i­ty con­sist­ed of Jus­tices Robin Davis, Mar­garet Work­man, and  Thomas McHugh. Jus­tices Menis Ketchum and Brent Ben­jamin dis­sent­ed, and Jus­tice Ketchum wrote a dis­sent­ing opin­ion.

The Facts–Sex at Work

These are the facts accord­ing to the com­plaint in the law­suit: Tri­cia Roth was a res­pi­ra­to­ry ther­a­pist work­ing at DeFe­lice­Care, Inc. in Ohio Coun­ty, West Vir­ginia, and she was about to go on vaca­tion. She was direct­ed by Leslie DeFe­lice (the male boss/owner) to come to work some­time dur­ing the week­end pre­ced­ing her vaca­tion in June 2006. She was not told a spe­cif­ic time to come to work dur­ing that week­end. When she came to work as ordered, she “observed Defen­dant [Leslie] DeFe­lice and/or Michelle Kel­ly par­tial­ly clothed and in a com­pro­mis­ing posi­tion”. Mr. DeFe­lice instruct­ed Ms. Roth to go into a con­fer­ence room and wait–meanwhile Mr. DeFe­lice and the oth­er employ­ee got all their clothes back on. Mr. DeFe­lice then talked to Ms. Roth and told her to for­get about what she had just seen, and threat­ened Ms. Ross with the loss of her res­pi­ra­to­ry ther­a­py license and the loss of her employ­ment.

Ms. Roth then went on vaca­tion. When she got back from vaca­tion and returned to work, she had a meet­ing with Mr. DeFe­lice that didn’t go well. Ms. Roth told Mr. DeFe­lice that she hadn’t told any­one about his sex­u­al encounter at work. Mr. DeFe­lice pro­ceed­ed to fire Ms. Roth because “he did not like how she was dressed” and “he did not like the style[/]color of her hair”.

Ms. Roth Files Suit–Case Dis­missed

Ms. Roth then filed suit on legal the­o­ries cen­ter­ing around sex dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­u­al harass­ment, and–bada bing!–the case prompt­ly got dis­missed.

Ms. Roth’s com­plaint (the doc­u­ment which starts the law­suit and describes the plaintiff’s alle­ga­tions) focused on the sex­u­al inci­dent I have described above, but also made alle­ga­tions about oth­er sex­u­al harassment–I will dis­cuss those details below.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Sor­ry boss, I didn’t know you were hav­ing sex in the office!!

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