Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Was This Mother Thinking?

Sometimes cases grab your attention just because 0f the conduct of those involved. In affirming summary judgment for the employer in a sexual harassment/retaliation case the 11th Circuit plowed no new legal ground. Instead it found the plaintiff, a seasonal cashier, had failed to establish a causal relation between a drop in hours after Christmas, which she had been told would happen when she was hired for the holiday season, and sexual harassment by a manager, which plaintiff conceded did not rise to the level of severe or pervasive. Cotton v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (11th Cir. 1/4/06) [pdf].

Although the opinion doesn't state how old the plaintiff was, what it does provide is the testimony the plaintiff's mother gave about the conduct of the harassing manager BEFORE her daughter interviewed and accepted the position:
Walker [harassing manager] had given Kourtney [plaintiff] and her mother [Pam] free food at the restaurant, put his hand on Pam Cotton’s leg, and invited Pam Cotton to spend a weekend with him in Gulf Shores. Pam Cotton stated that, when Walker asked Cotton to interview for a position at Cracker Barrel, he said to Kourtney “make sure you wear something sexy to the interview.” Cotton’s mother stated that just before the interview Walker “jokingly said . . . [Kourtney Cotton] can get all the hours she wants if [Pam Cotton] [went] out with [Walker], and stuff like that.” Pam Cotton also testified that, before the incident in the stockroom, Walker invited her to a Cracker Barrel storage building and promised to give her “anything [she] wanted out of there.”

Certainly advance notice of one's crude behavior does not excuse the manager's conduct in any sense, legal or otherwise, but you have to wonder -- what was this mother (and daughter) thinking when she accepted the position?

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