Sexual Harassment Allegations, That Boss Terminated Plaintiff For Rejecting Sexual Advances, Sufficient

In Nakeshia Nikki Jones v. Industry One Mobile, Inc, 19-01023, 2021 WL 4955905 (S.D. Ala. Oct. 8, 2021), the court, inter alia, recommended that the court grant (as a sanction) plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment on her claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

To establish a prima facie case of sexual harassment, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that she belongs to a protected group; (2) that she has been subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment; (3) that the harassment was based on her sex; (4) that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment; and (5) that a basis for holding the employer liable exists.” Xueyan Zhou v. Intergraph Corp., 353 F. Supp. 3d 1220, 1229 (N.D. Ala. 2019). There are two alternative ways a plaintiff may establish a basis for an employer’s vicarious liability in a Title VII sexual harassment claim: first, an employer is liable under Title VII if it, even unknowingly, permits a supervisor to take a tangible employment action against an employee, such as firing an employee, because she refused to give in to his sexual overtures; the second is based upon a hostile work environment theory where the environment is objectively and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile and abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so. See Hulsey v. Pride Restaurants, LLC, 367 F.3d 1238, 1244 (11th Cir. 2004).

Given Jones’s assertion that her supervisor, Defendant Dennis, repeatedly requested sexual favors, and that when she rebuffed him and complained to management on several occasions (to no avail), Dennis targeted her for criticism and then terminated her employment, the undersigned finds that Jones has alleged facts sufficient to establish unlawful sexual harassment. See Vance v. Ball State Univ., 570 U.S. 421, 440 (2013)(“[Strict liability] exists when a supervisor actually takes a tangible employment action based on, for example, a subordinate’s refusal to accede to sexual demands.”).

The court also held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged retaliation under Title VII, based on her contentions that “she repeatedly complained to various members of management, including Defendant Dennis himself, about the sexual harassment that she was being subjected to by Dennis and her other male co-workers and that, in close proximity to her complaints, she was terminated.”

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