The University of Pennsylvania had to pay punitive damages for not considering a male coach for women’s crew. Penn argued that it should not be liable for punitive damages because it makes good faith efforts to comply with Title VII. The Third Circuit holds that punitive damages stick because Penn failed to help ensure that the jury was properly instructed.
The D.C. Circuit has found that obscene expressions made by a male employee to another male employee “have no connection whatsoever with the sexual acts to which they make reference.” Such vulgar acts do not constitute discrimination because of sex. The acts were a “rancorous” workplace dispute.
A gay man brought a sexual harassment claim under Title VII, alleging that he was harassed because he did not fit the stereotype of a man. The court found that eight nonviolent incidents over 30 months was not enough to prove unlawful sexual harassment.
A $1 million jury award was reduced to $200,000 by the trial judge. The Eighth Circuit holds that is still too high since the employer was not found to be acting with “malice or reckless indifference.”
A former salesperson sued a car dealership for sexual harassment. The court denied summary judgment. First, the dealership gave one of the employee’s leads to another employee. Since a jury could find this to be a tangible employment action, a trial is needed. Secondly, the employer’s discriminatory harassment policy permitted complaints to any supervisor, which included a manager who had harassed the employee. The employer therefore could not establish that the employee unreasonably failed to complain pursuant to its policy.
A scorned CFO called an account manager a “cold-hearted bitch” and allegedly engaged in a physical altercation with his ex-girlfriend. Animosity from a failed romance is not sexual harassment and the court found that “the term ‘bitch’ was used as a pejorative term for a woman and that the term was not sexually harassing.
An engineer was awarded $200,000 in punitive damages in a sex discrimination case. The 10th Circuit ruled that the employer should have been given a chance to present a “good faith” defense with respect to the punitive damages. At a minimum “an employer must at least adopt anti-discrimination policies and make a good faith effort to educate its employees about these policies and Title VII’s prohibitions.”
A woman complained about demeaning graffiti. During an investigation the anonymous harasser struck again. The Tenth Circuit found that the employer’s investigation was “prompt, adequate and effective.” “The test is whether the employer’s response to each incident of harassment is proportional to the incident and reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent future harassing behavior.”
A sales clerk complained about sexual harassment. The employer took corrective action and instructed her to report any renewed harassment. Her failure to report renewed harassment resulted in the dismissal of her claim.
While the 10th Circuit found that the Church’s actions could be viewed as “offensive” and incorrect, the church autonomy doctrine “prohibits civil court review of internal church disputes involving matters of faith, doctrine, church governance and policy” made for ecclesiastical and not secular reasons.