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Trial is proper on Harassment Claim where Employer's Response to Complaint was to move Alleged Victim, according to Texas Federal Court

Posted Thursday, January 23, 2014 6:17 pm

The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas recently denied an employer's motion for summary judgment on a Title VII sexual harassment claim brought by a former surgical pre-op nurse.  The employee alleged that she was subjected to sexual comments and unwanted touching by a surgeon for eighteen months, and that her employer failed to protect her during that time.  After complaining about the conduct, the employee was given the option of transferring to another facility, where she lost hours, or remaining at the same facility as the alleged harasser and working on another floor.

 

In concluding that trial was proper on the employee's harassment claim, the court reasoned that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the misconduct was severe or pervasive.  The surgeon admitted to showing the employee sexually explicit images, and the employee alleged that he regularly sought her out, gave her hugs, and asked her to have drinks with him.

 
The court also held that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually-harassing behavior.  While the company did promulgate a harassment policy, the employee presented sufficient evidence to justify jury consideration of whether the company promptly responded to address the issue once it was on notice.  While the surgeon was informed of the complaint and asked to avoid further interaction with the nurse, the only other action the company took was to give the complaining the employee the option of switching floors at the same facility or transferring to another one where she lost hours.  A jury could conclude that this was an insufficient response, the court reasoned, and as such summary judgment was improper.  Sanders v. Christus Santa Rosa PASC

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