How Not To Bring A Sexual Harassment Claim

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According to the 8th Circuit:

To establish a prima facie hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that she was a member of a protected group; (2) the occurrence of unwelcome harassment; (3) a causal nexus between the harassment and her membership in the protected group; (4) that the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective remedial action. Carter v. Chrysler Corp., 173 F.3d 693, 700 (8th Cir.1999).

Here are some of the allegations made by the losing (summary judgment) plaintiff in Debra Anda v. Wickes Furniture Company:

During discovery in this lawsuit, Anda described a series of sexual harassment incidents involving numerous Wickes’s employees that she had not reported to Wickes’s management. Knott told Anda that he wanted to have sex with her daughter, asked her what she would do if she found her daughter in bed with two men, and said her daughter would enjoy that experience. Knott also told Anda that she was the same size as his wife and that he wanted to bend her over a sofa to see what it would be like to have sex with his wife on that sofa. On another occasion, Knott put Anda’s head in his groin and said,”Blow me.” Knott also would come towards Anda from behind and lift her in a bear hug. Knott and Carlson referred to Anda and Gargaro as”cunts”and”bitches.” Flores called Anda the”virgin Mary”and”mother of God”because she told male salespeople that they said inappropriate things. He hugged Anda from behind, told her that her daughter was hot and jumped on her while she was sitting on a sofa and simulated having sex with her. Clark hugged Anda, grabbed her breast and said it was firm, jumped on top of her and told Anda that Enga was slutty. Mack made comments to Anda about her sex life and told Anda that Enga was loose and hot. He also complained that Wickes did not hire more attractive women. Bruber, the store manager, asked Anda if Enga was bisexual, told Anda that two women wanted to make a sandwich out of him at another Wickes store, and told Anda that he wrongly was written up for sexual harassment at that store.

The court held that because Anda failed to report the incidents in an official way, she could not prove the employer know or should have known about them. Read the entire opinion here.

–Ann Bartow

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