How Many Hugs In A Sexual Harassment Claim?
December 6, 2016
Two years after being thrown out of federal court in Sacramento, a lawsuit accusing the sheriff of Yolo County of sexual harassment has been resurrected by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A former correctional officer in the sheriff’s office had alleged a sexually hostile work environment based on more than a 100 occasions of being greeted with unwelcome hugs and cases over her 12 years on the job. The district court had agreed with the sheriff, and the county, in their claim that the alleged conduct wasn’t severe or pervasive enough to establish a hostile work environment. The appeals court, in ruling there was enough alleged by the plaintiff to send the matter to a jury, noted that precedents cited by the district court were almost two decades old and probably to not reflect “contemporary standards of socially acceptable conduct in the workplace.” The appeals court also took issue with a formula that apparently had been used by the district court in concluding that the office work environment wasn’t hostile – the complainant had been hugged only a few times year, and for a few seconds at a time.
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