Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Farragher/Ellerth Defense Succeeds in 7th Cir. Sexual Harassment Case

The 7th Circuit decision last week in Jackson v. County of Racine (7th Cir. 1/25/07) [pdf] is a good example of a court considering the application of the Farragher/Ellerth defense in a sexual harassment case. Of particular significance to the court was the unwillingness of plaintiffs to file a formal complaint or to provide very much assistance when the employer tried to investigate.

The case was not a total loss, at least for future plaintiffs, as the court used the occasion to gently (especially for the 7th Circuit) chide both parties' counsel's apparent view that in order to be actionable as sexual harassment a workplace must be hellish:

We trust that in the future counsel will avoid the use of a single, overwrought word like “hellish” to describe the workplace and focus on the question whether a protected group is experiencing abuse in the workplace, on account of their protected characteristic, to the detriment of their job performance or advancement.


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