Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Court of Delaware

Domestic Case Law

Brett v. Berkowitz Supreme Court of Delaware (1998)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff sued her former attorney for sexual misconduct and malpractice.  Under 11 Del. C. § 601, there are criminal penalties for sexual harassment.  The statute does not explicitly provide for a private right of action.  Further, the plaintiff did not bring her cause of action under this statute, and instead, claimed she could bring a common law cause of action for sexual harassment.  The court held that the plaintiff did not have a private cause of action under § 601; in other words, she could not bring common law private claims under that section for sexual harassment.  Id. at 512-13



Konstantopoulos v. Westvaco Corp. Supreme Court of Delaware (1996)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff sued her former employer for allowing her to be subjected to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and sexual assault by her co-workers.  The plaintiff claimed that her co-workers made sexual comments and engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, but that she was not physically injured by the conduct.  She also had no prior or subsequent contact with her co-workers outside of work.  Id. at 938.  The plaintiff complained to her supervisors but nothing was ever done to rectify the situation.  The plaintiff subsequently elected to take a layoff from her job once the harassment continued.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff had no common law right of action because any of these claims were encompassed by the Delaware Workmen’s Compensation Act (19 Del. C. § 2301).  Under this Act, a plaintiff’s compensation for personal injuries is limited to compensation that is provided in the Act.  The court agreed with the defendant and found that the Act did not exclude acts of a sexual nature that occurred at work, and that the plaintiff could not bring a private cause of action for sexual harassment.  Id. at 939-40.  Thus, any action for sexual harassment would have to be brought pursuant to 19 Del. C. § 2301.