Women and Justice: Court: New Hampshire Supreme Court

Domestic Case Law

Madeja v. MPB Corp. New Hampshire Supreme Court (2003)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff worked for the defendant, who manufactured ball bearings. After commencing work, the plaintiff’s trainer told a supervisor that he could not work around the plaintiff due to her attitude. The plaintiff responded that the trainer had been engaging in sexually harassing behavior. The supervisor warned the trainer, following which the trainer did not bother the plaintiff again, but was hostile towards her. Soon thereafter, another trainer, friend of the previous trainer, started making complaints about plaintiff. After this new complaint, the supervisor inspected the plaintiff’s work and concluded she was unproductive. The supervisor then spoke with the senior shift supervisor about the plaintiff’s low productivity. The shift supervisor did not know about the plaintiff’s complaint against the trainer and recommended that the supervisor terminate the plaintiff. The plaintiff was subsequently terminated and then sued the defendant for sexual harassment. The jury during the trial found the defendant was guilty for a hostile work environment under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 354-A. The defendant argued that the judge’s jury instructions were improper because they would hold the defendant liable for a merely negligent response to the sexual harassment, which should be insufficient to find liability. The court noted that under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 354-A, an employer is liable for sexual harassment committed by a co-worker of the plaintiff if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt, effective remedial action to end the harassment. The court further noted that an employer may be liable for an employee’s sexual harassment based on the employer’s negligence to remedy the situation.


Schneider v. Plymouth State College New Hampshire Supreme Court (1999)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff was a student at the defendant-college. The plaintiff took a course with a professor, had a positive experience and ultimately majored in the subject of the class. The professor became the plaintiff’s academic advisor. Subsequently, the professor began to sexually harass the plaintiff. When the plaintiff refused the professor’s advances, he grew angry and threatened to make her life very difficult. He withheld academic support for her and ridiculed her in front of faculty. He also gave her a poor mark for her work as an intern without ever consulting the supervisor at the company. The plaintiff reported the harassment to faculty members (to a professor and the dean of the college). The plaintiff also reported the harassment in a paper to a professor, but no action was taken in response. The plaintiff eventually spoke with another professor about the harassment but wished to remain anonymous for fear of worse treatment by the professor. That professor then told the chair of the college’s art department. Further, more students had reported the harassment of the plaintiff. Action was not taken against the professor though because the plaintiff wished to remain anonymous and the school would not act without a “firsthand account.” After the plaintiff graduated, she wrote to the dean who was acting as interim president of the school that she was harassed as a student. The professor was then dismissed on the ground of moral delinquency. The plaintiff then sued the defendant for vicarious liability for the professor’s sexual harassment. She also claimed breach of fiduciary duty. The court found that there was a fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant; the plaintiff depended on the defendant for her education and relied upon the defendant to adopt and enforce practices to minimize danger that students will be exposed to sexual harassment. The court did not analyze the school’s liability under the hostile environment theory as it found the school guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty. Thus, in an academic setting, a plaintiff may be entitled to relief for harassment under a breach of fiduciary duty in addition to the usual hostile environment claims.


Monge v. Beebe Rubber Co. New Hampshire Supreme Court (1974)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff worked for the defendant in a union shop and she joined the union as a requirement for her employment. After working without incident for a few months, the plaintiff applied to work a different position for higher pay. The plaintiff’s foreman told her that if she wanted the job, she would have to be nice. The plaintiff got the job. Subsequently, the foreman asked her out and she refused. Following this, the plaintiff’s personnel manager visited her at home about some annoying phone calls the plaintiff was receiving, and during that visit, the manager told the plaintiff he knew that the foreman used his position to make advances at female employees under his authority, and asked the plaintiff “not to make trouble.” After that, only three weeks after having worked in the new position, her machine was shut down, her overtime was taken away (even though no one else’s was), and she had to return to a position at a lower salary. The foreman continued to harass plaintiff in various ways, eventually firing her for refusing to comply an order at the very moment she was making a complaint to the union steward. After she was reinstated, the plaintiff was fired yet again when she called in sick over a period of time. The plaintiff did not file a claim for hostile working environment upon her termination. However, she did sue for breach of her employment contract. The plaintiff was an at-will employee. The court noted that in order to find termination was improper, the plaintiff would need to show that the termination was motivated by bad faith or malice. The court noted that the facts of the case—in particular, the foreman’s overtures, manipulation of assignments, and the connivance of the personnel manager, all supported the jury’s conclusion that termination was maliciously motivated and thus improper. Thus, even though the plaintiff did not sue for sexual harassment, she was able to use the harassment to show she was maliciously terminated from her job.



In re Sawyer New Hampshire Supreme Court (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Here, the parties were married for two years when the plaintiff filed a domestic violence petition against the defendant. She stated that defendant punched her in the stomach and leg, choked her, threw her to the floor, fisted her in the face, and threated to drown her in the bathtub. The plaintiff did not specify the dates of the abuse. The trial court issued an ex parte domestic violence temporary order of protection. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s petition was legally insufficient as it did not specify when the abuse occurred. The plaintiff testified to the alleged abuse without objection. Subsequent to this testimony, the court issued a final protective order. The court found that N.H. rev. Stat. § 173:B did not require the plaintiff to set forth the specific dates on which she suffered abuse. The court found that the plaintiff’s allegations were legally sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss because they allowed a reasonable inference that the plaintiff was in immediate and present danger of abuse. Further, the fact that the plaintiff did not specify the dates of the abuse did not violate the defendant’s due process rights since he could not show he was actually prejudiced by this omission.



Hemenway v. Hemenway New Hampshire Supreme Court (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Here, the plaintiff and the defendant were married and had four children. They all lived in Florida until the plaintiff left with their children and moved to New Hampshire. The parties subsequently divorced. Upon her arrival in New Hampshire, the plaintiff applied for a temporary restraining order against the defendant in Massachusetts, because he criminally threatened her and their children and he threatened her at her parents’ house in Massachusetts. Family court issued a protective order that prohibited the defendant from threatening or abusing his wife or children, contacting the plaintiff absent special authorization by court, coming within a distance of her home or work, or taking or damaging the plaintiff’s property. The family court also ordered the defendant to hand over his firearms. The husband appealed and argued that the court had no personal jurisdiction over him as he was a nonresident and the alleged abuse never occurred in New Hampshire. The court found that the family court could issue a protective order against the defendant as the purpose of New Hampshire’s domestic violence statute was to protect victims within that state, but that it could not require any affirmative act on the part of the defendant. Thus, the order could stand as it directed the defendant to refrain from seeing or contacting the plaintiff, but it could not direct him to relinquish his firearms.



MacPherson v. Weiner New Hampshire Supreme Court (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Here, the plaintiff was issued a final protective order against the defendant. Subsequent to the issuance of this order, the plaintiff had filed a statement with the police that the defendant went to her work, called her work, and called her parents. Further, a witness observed the defendant at the plaintiff’s home, and he was seen to drive by her home on seven occasions. The defendant was convicted of violating the protective order and complied with it thereafter. Subsequently, the plaintiff requested a five-year extension to the order and the defendant requested a hearing. The trial court granted the extension and the defendant appealed. The defendant argued that the plaintiff did not have good cause to support the extension. The court considered good cause under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 633:3-a which provides that in regard to stalking, a protective order may be extended on a showing of good cause to provide for the safety and well-being of the plaintiff. The court noted that to determine good cause, it should consider the circumstances of the original stalking, the current conditions, and consider any reasonable fear by the plaintiff. The court found that the plaintiff showed good cause for an extension of the protective order; the defendant drove by the plaintiff’s house multiple times in violation of the initial protective order only fifteen months earlier and the plaintiff’s fear of the defendant was reasonable.