Title VII Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Separation From Alleged Harasser Not Dispositive

In Lasarge v. Fastex Logistics, Inc., Case No. 23 C 14836, 2024 WL 3011359 (N.D.Ill., June 14, 2024), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff plausibly alleged sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Title VII and IHRA make it a civil rights violation for an employer to fail to reasonably respond to workplace harassment when it has been made aware of such conduct. A plaintiff states a claim for sexual harassment under Title VII and the IHRA by alleging that: “(1) she endured unwelcome sexual harassment; (2) she was harassed because of her sex; (3) the harassment was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of employment and created a hostile work environment; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability.” Nischan v. Stratosphere Quality, LLC, 865 F.3d 922, 928 (7th Cir. 2017). Here, Plaintiff sufficiently alleges that she endured unwelcome sexual harassment. Specifically, the Complaint states that Plaintiff was groped by her training supervisor multiple times. She made it clear through verbal and physical communication that these advances were unwelcomed. The alleged harassment was on the basis of her sex and was severe to the point of creating a hostile work environment. Specifically, the harassment made her “uncomfortable” in her work environment and nervous about the potential consequences of reporting the behavior because “she anticipated worsening treatment from him [her harasser] and/or putting her job at risk if she reported the harassment and was unable to complete the training.” Accordingly, Plaintiff has sufficiently pled a basis for employer liability in that the harassment was perpetrated by a supervisor, and that Defendant was made aware of the harassment and failed to take reasonable care in remedying it.

Defendant argues that it addressed the alleged harassment by having Plaintiff removed from the situation and flown home. This argument is unavailing. Plaintiff acknowledges that her boss arranged for her to return home after she reported her harassment. However, Plaintiff has not pled herself out of court by acknowledging Defendant’s actions to separate her from her harasser. See Smith v. Sheahan, 189 F.3d 529, 535 (7th Cir. 1999) (holding that a jury could reasonably find that an employer that separated sexual harassment plaintiff from her harasser negligently failed to remedy the harassment). The question that must be answered is whether Defendant’s “response to the harassment was a reasonable one, designed to remedy the illegal harassment, or a negligent one that did not adequately respond to the situation in its midst.” Though Defendant had Plaintiff separated from her harasser after she reported her harassment, it is plausible that Defendant was nonetheless negligent in not remedying the harassment.

[Citations omitted.]

Accordingly, the court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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