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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog

When A Supervisor Makes Employment Decisions Based On A Sexual Harassment Victim’s Submission To Or Rejection Of Sexual Behavior

sign that reads Quid Pro Quo

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice.  In making sexual harassment unlawful, Title VII entitles employees to work free from sexual intimidation or coercion, including quid pro quo sexual harassment.  According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs whenever submission to or rejection of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the victim. 

Having long represented employees who have endured sexual harassment in the workplace, our Central Florida sexual harassment attorneys have learned that quid pro quo sexual harassment can often have a disastrous impact on the lives of victims.  As explained by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Jin v. Metro Life Ins. Co., 310 F.3d 84 (2d Cir. 1994), “requiring an employee to engage in unwanted sex acts is one of the most pernicious and oppressive forms of sexual harassment that can occur in the workplace.”  A recent decision by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Moody v. Atlantic Bd. of Educ., No. 16-4373 (3d Cir. Sept. 6, 2017) illustrates that the link between a supervisor’s sexually harassing conduct and a job related reprisal is often subtle because, as observed by the court in Fowler v. Sunrise Carpet Industries, Inc., 911 F.Supp. 1560 (N.D. Ga. 1996), “as time goes by and harassers learn that they can no longer victimize their prey at will their actions become less overt.” 

Victim Rejects Supervisor’s Sexual Demands

In Moody, Michelle Moody (Moody) brought a sexual harassment claim pursuant to Title VII against the Atlantic City Board of Education (Board).  Moody worked as a substitute custodian for the Board.  Moody claimed that the custodial foreman of the New York Avenue School, who was her supervisor, subjected her to severe and pervasive sexual harassment.  The alleged sexual harassment included touching her breasts and buttocks, trying to remove her shirt, sending her sexually explicit text messages, and calling her into his office while he was sitting naked on a chair. 

The sexually harassing behavior escalated into quid pro quo sexual harassment, with the supervisor saying he would assign her more hours if she performed sexual favors for him and luring her into an unwanted sexual encounter with promises of full-time work.  In the days following the sexual encounter, Moody told the supervisor that “it would never happen again.” After Moody rejected the supervisor’s sexual advances, Moody claimed that the supervisor began treating her differently, including reducing her hours and replacing her with another substitute custodian. 

Moody then reported the supervisor’s sexually harassing behavior to the Board’s Assistant Superintendent.  The Assistant Superintendent relayed Moody’s complaint to Human Resources.  Human Resources initiated an investigation, but did not reach a conclusion as to whether Moody was sexually harassed.  The Board then hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of Moody’s sexual harassment complaint.  The law firm issued a report finding that Moody had not been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination. 

Evidence Shows Victim’s Hours Cut After Rejecting Sexual Demands

The trial court dismissed Moody’s sexual harassment claim and refused to allow Moody to present her case to a jury.  The trial court found that Moody failed to establish that she suffered adverse job consequences because of her refusal to submit to the supervisor’s sexual demands.  The trial court further found that the Board took prompt remedial action to correct the harassment upon receipt of Moody’s complaint.  On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed the trial court’s dismissal and reinstated Moody’s sexual harassment claim. 

At the outset of its opinion, the Third Circuit observed that the supervisor had authority over Moody’s hours and, thus, the power to reduce her pay by reducing her hours.  The appellate court pointed out that Moody worked more hours for the supervisor in the pay periods before she rejected his sexual advances than in the pay periods after she rejected them.  In light of the evidence showing that the supervisor reduced Moody’s hours after she rejected his sexual demands, the appellate court found that a “reasonable juror could conclude that [the supervisor] gave Moody hours to entice her to accede to his sexual demands and then reduced her hours after she rejected him.”  If the jury found that Moody’s hours were cut because of her refusal to submit to the supervisor’s sexual demands, the Second Circuit explained, then the Board was strictly liable for the supervisor’s sexually harassing behavior and whether the Board took prompt remedial action to correct the harassment upon receipt of Moody’s complaint was legally irrelevant. 

Free Consultation With Central Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyers   

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have more than fifteen years of experience representing sexual harassment victims who have suffered adverse job consequences because of their refusal to submit to a supervisor’s sexual advances or sexual demands.  If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or have questions about quid pro quo sexual harassment, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Central Florida sexual harassment attorneys.  Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover. 

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