Michigan Federal Court Denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss EEOC’s Title VII Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim

In EEOC v. Konos, Inc., Case No. 1:20-CV-973 (W.D. Mich. June 3, 2021), the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s sexual harassment lawsuit brought on behalf of a worker, an egg inspector, who alleged that she suffered sexual harassment.

The court summarized the facts as follows (as asserted by the EEOC):

Jane Doe started working for Defendant Employer on or about April 12, 2017 as an egg inspector at its facility in Martin, Michigan. Shortly thereafter, a supervisor, Selvin Castillo-Vasquez, began sexually harassing Doe. Castillo-Vasquez’s harassment included text messages soliciting an intimate relationship, which Doe rejected. Additionally, he sexually assaulted Doe on three separate occasions, including forced kissing, groping, and vaginal penetration. Doe reported Castillo-Vasquez’s assault to Defendant Employer and police and obtained a personal protection order against him. Castilo-Vasquez was prosecuted and pled no contest to 4thdegree criminal sexual conduct. In retaliation for Doe’s complaints about sexual harassment, Defendant Employer sent Doe home, and she never returned to work.

The EEOC sued, alleging two claims: (1) that Konos violated Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 by subjecting Doe to a hostile work environment; and (2) Konos violated Title VII by retaliating against Doe for objecting to and complaining about a sexually hostile work environment.

As to plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, the court – after summarizing the relevant legal standard – noted that “Plaintiff alleges Doe was subjected to text messages, forced kissing, groping, and vaginal penetration by a supervisor” and held that “[w]hile these instances of sexual harassment vary in severity, when viewed in totality, they are sufficient to state a claim for relief under Title VII.”

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