This simulation involves a hearing at the trial court level on a motion for summary judgment in a case involving the employer’s liability for alleged sexual harassment.
Before a case goes to trial, the parties use various motions to refine and define the issues. One such motion is the Motion for Summary Judgment. In this case, the employer’s Motion for Summary judgment claims that the employee has failed to state sufficient facts for a jury to be able to decide that a) the conduct complained of constitutes sexual harassment and b) the employee who allegedly is guilty of harassment is a “supervisor”, and c) that the company maintained a “hostile workplace.”
Motions for Summary Judgment are submitted in writing and are supported by written arguments, called Briefs. Judges will look at the motions, the briefs, and any other sworn statements that parties have made, such as oral depositions or sworn answers to discovery (see page 171 in your text) and will also hear oral argument from the parties’ attorneys on the issues raised in the motion.
The moving party, in this case Big Car Company, is attempting to convince the judge that its employee, Clarence, did not sexually harass Maybelle Darcy, and that Clarence is not a supervisor. To win its point, Big Car must convince the judge the facts stated by Ms Darcy are not sufficient at law to constitute sexual harassment, are not sufficient at law to show that there was a “hostile work environment” and are not sufficient at law to show that Clarence is a supervisor.
Ms Darcy, in order to get her case to a jury, must convince the judge of the opposite.
Supervisors and middle managers are routinely named as defendants in sexual harassment cases. The awards can be quite large. The cases themselves can take many years to resolve. The case upon which this simulation is based was in litigation for three full years.
Before you watch the simulation, review the material that follows. Watch the simulation, then complete the assignment below.
We directed courts to determine whether an environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive by “looking at all the circumstances,” including the “frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.”. Most recently, we explained that Title VII does not prohibit “genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex.”…”simple teasing,” offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in the “terms and conditions of employment.”
(It is not) “the ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language, gender-related jokes, and occasional teasing.” Faragher
“…in assessing a hostile environment claim, the totality of the circumstances must be examined, including “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.” Harris v. Forklift
Conduct must be objectively offensive to a “reasonable person” and seen as subjectively offensive by the person claiming sexual harassment.
An individual qualifies as an employee’s “supervisor” if:
“Tangible employment decisions” are decisions that significantly change another employee’s employment status. Such actions include, but are not limited to, hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, and reassigning the employee. An individual whose job responsibilities include the authority to recommend tangible job decisions affecting an employee qualifies as his or her supervisor even if the individual does not have the final say. As long as the individual’s recommendation is given substantial weight by the final decision maker(s), that individual meets the definition of supervisor.
An individual who is authorized to direct another employee’s day-to-day work activities qualifies as his or her supervisor even if that individual does not have the authority to undertake or recommend tangible job decisions.
On the other hand, someone who merely relays other officials’ instructions regarding work assignments and reports back to those officials does not have true supervisory authority. Furthermore, someone who directs only a limited number of tasks or assignments would not qualify as a “supervisor.”