Sexual Harassment Doesn't Justify Death Threats

Harassment does not warrant threats by social worker. A social worker was discharged because of having made threats to shoot her supervisor or set him on fire. She sued for sex and age discrimination, claiming that the supervisor had subjected her to a pattern of harassment involving discriminatory requirements, stricter supervision and unfair performance evaluation. The court found little evidence of a sex or age connection to the alleged harassment. However, even if there was strong evidence of harassment, it would not justify death threats. An employee has a duty to use the employer’s complaint process and the courts to address discrimination. Engaging in threats is unacceptable and warrants discharge. Howell v. New Mexico Dept. of Aging (10th Cir., 2010).


Prompt response results in dismissal of case. A mining company achieved dismissal of a sexual-harassment case by showing prompt and effective response to an employee complaint. An employee complained that his male supervisor was sexually harassing him. The mine’s general manager promptly investigated, gave warning to the supervisor, and placed the employee under different supervision with no change in pay or hours. In the ensuing Title VII suit, the court ruled that the company met all the requirements of the Title VII Faragher defense and dismissed the case. Speigner v. Shoal Creek Drummond Mine (11th Cir., 2010).

Inadequate response to known sexual targeter. A female county employee was subjected to harassment by a sheriff’s deputy known to be a “sexual predator.” When hired, she was warned by others that the deputy was a “predator” and was well known to “target hot women” for traffic stops. He began a pattern of unwelcome romantic attention toward her. These progressed to physical touching. She complained. Instead of directly confronting the deputy, the sheriff gave a generic talk about inappropriate workplace behavior to all employees. The deputy continued the unwelcome attention, and the woman again complained. The deputy was ordered to attend harassment training. The female employee quit, claiming inadequate response, then sued for constructive discharge. The court found the county’s response was lacking. The county was aware of the deputy’s propensity for improper sexual behavior yet failed to even directly confront him. Even after a second complaint, it took only a slap-on-the-wrist approach. Mendoza v. Wasco Co. (D. Oregon, 2010).

Bob Gregg, partner in Boardman Law Firm, shares his roundup of diversity-related legal issues. He can be reached at rgregg@boardmanlawfirm.com.

Latest News

multi race business woman

New Report Shows Significant Increase in Female and Black Representation in the Executive Boardroom

Diversity and inclusion appear to be successfully increasing among America’s largest and most successful companies. The finding comes from a new report conducted by executive recruiting firm Crist Kolder Associates as part of its review of DEI representation in executive offices. Ariel Zilber of the New York Post reported that…

Taco Bell

Taco Bell Creates Business School To Help Underrepresented Groups Become Franchise Owners

Taco Bell and the popular fast-food chain’s owner Yum! Brands have entered the DEI arena with a new business school designed to help people of all backgrounds — and people of color in particular — advance into restaurant ownership. Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Business reported that “a select group of…

LGBTQ dog tags

US Government Will Now Allow Veterans To Identify As Trans on Veteran Affairs Medical Records

In another giant leap forward for LGBTQ+ rights and equality in the military, the federal government has announced that military veterans can now officially identify as trans in their official medical records. Brody Levesque of the Los Angeles Blade reported that Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has confirmed that veterans…

Comcast NBCUniversal’s NBCU Academy Partners With 13 New Academic Institutions

Originally published at corporate.comcast.com. Comcast NBCUniversal ranked No. 6 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   NBCU Academy, NBCU News Group’s multi-platform journalism training and development program, significantly expanded its reach to 30 institutions by adding 13 new partners, NBCU News Group Chairman Cesar Conde announced. The new…