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Employee Allowed to Pursue Claim that Employer Retaliated Against Her for Reporting Sexual Impropriety

webcamWhile much has been reported in the news recently in terms of bathrooms and civil rights, an Ohio public health agency employee’s Title VII lawsuit was a very different kind of bathroom case. The employee, a supervisory-level environmental health and sanitation worker, alleged that she suffered from workplace retaliation after informing office supervisors about an IT worker’s alleged misuse of a video camera. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals revived that employee’s case recently, deciding that the employee’s evidence created a possible conclusion that she suffered harm as a result of reporting the male co-worker’s alleged acts of sexual impropriety.

The dispute erupted after three female employees at a public health office reported to the eventual plaintiff about an IT worker’s video camera and its being pointed toward the women’s bathroom. The eventual plaintiff, who was also a leader in the local public employees union, then forwarded that complaint onward, presumably for investigation and potential action by the employer.

What happened after that was something very different. The Health Commissioner allegedly physically confronted the employee about the video camera report. At one point, according to the plaintiff, the commissioner screamed at her, shoved her into the women’s bathroom, and blocked her from exiting the bathroom. The employee reported the incident to her supervisor, her union, and the police.

The local newspaper reported on the story of the video camera and the bathroom. Allegedly, after that news report, the employee’s supervisor started making her life at work highly unpleasant, eventually leading to the employee’s taking roughly six weeks of FMLA leave in the summer of 2013, due to anxiety and depression. When she returned to work in September, she found that her supervisory job duties had been reassigned to a man.

Based on this, she filed a Title VII lawsuit, alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. The employer sought summary judgment, and the lower court dismissed all of the employee’s Title VII claims. The trial court concluded that the dispute between the employee and the commission was simply one between a high-ranking manager of the employer’s business and a high-ranking officer in the employees’ union.

The appeals court, however, reversed that ruling. In any civil litigation matter, the rules regarding summary judgment create a fairly high hurdle for a defendant to clear in order to end the case against it. The court must find that the employee has no case, even after making all of the assumptions and resolving all of the ambiguities in the manner most favorable to the plaintiff.

In this case, while the proof made it possible to conclude that the dispute was just one between a health commissioner and a union leader, it was also possible to interpret the altercation as a retaliatory action resulting from the employee’s reporting of her female colleagues’ sex-based complaints. Given that possible interpretation, this meant that, viewing the case in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, she did have a case, and the employee wasn’t entitled to summary judgment on the Title VII claims.

If you’ve suffered from discrimination or retaliation at work, take action right away. Contact the aggressive Tennessee retaliation attorneys at Mays & Kerr. We offer our clients reliable advice and diligent advocacy to help you pursue the compensation you deserve for the harm you’ve suffered.

To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 1-877-986-5529.

More blog posts:

Sixth Circuit Rules that Employee’s Evidence Raises Potential Claim for Retaliation, But Not Constructive Discharge, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, June 14, 2016

Federal Court in Tennessee Denies Summary Judgment in Case Where Employee Retaliated Against For Reporting Illegal Activity, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, June 11, 2014