Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Court of Tennessee

Domestic Case Law

Sanders v. Lanier Supreme Court of Tennessee (1998)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff worked as a youth services officer with the Dyer County Juvenile Court, where she alleged that a Chancery Court judge sexually harassed her verbally and physically. When she rejected his advances, the judge demoted her from her supervisory position, denied her salary increases, and altered her job requirements weekly. She sued the judge for quid-pro-quo sexual harassment, in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”). The Dyer County Chancery Court determined that the State was not the plaintiff’s employer for purposes of the THRA and dismissed her complaint for failing to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed and the Supreme Court of Tennessee affirmed the Court of Appeals decision. The Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the plaintiff did state a cause of action because the State was the plaintiff’s employer and the defendant was a supervisor acting in the scope of his employment, making the employer strictly liable under an “alter-ego” theory of liability.



Anderson v. Save-A-Lot, Ltd. Supreme Court of Tennessee (1999)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff was the co-manager of a Save-A-Lot grocery store in Memphis, where her immediate supervisor sexually harassed her daily and threatened to kill her if she reported the harassment. She reported him and transferred to another store, but suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and other psychological problems for which she sought medical treatment. She filed a complaint for workers compensation, which is at issue in this appeal, as well as a claim in federal court for sexual harassment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Shelby County Chancery Court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer on her worker’s compensation claim, finding that that her injuries did not arise out of her employment. The Special Workers Compensation Appeals Panel reversed and remanded, but the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed the Panel’s ruling, holding that her employment was not the “but for” cause of her injuries.



Parker v. Warren County Utility District Supreme Court of Tennessee (1999)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff worked as a bookkeeper for the defendant. The general manager of the district repeatedly touched her inappropriately and made inappropriate remarks to her. Parker made numerous complaints to her immediate supervisor, but the harassing conduct continued until she resigned. Soon after, she sued the defendant for sexual harassment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act in the Warren County Chancery Court. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, finding that it took prompt corrective action in response to plaintiff’s complaints, thereby establishing a complete affirmative defense. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant acted promptly and adequately. The Supreme Court of Tennessee held that an employer is subject to vicarious liability for actionable hostile work environment sexual harassment by a supervisor with immediate, or successively higher, authority over employee, but that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the employer exercised reasonable care. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.



Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist Supreme Court of Tennessee (2000)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

A Tennessee criminal statute required that physicians warn their patients that “abortion in a considerable number of cases constitutes a major surgical procedure,” that second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital, and that women wait two days after meeting with a physician to receive an abortion. The plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of these provisions. The Davidson County Circuit Court struck down as unconstitutional the statutory warning and two-day waiting period as unconstitutional, but allowed the hospitalization requirement. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed, finding each requirement constitutional. The Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that none of the provisions could be deemed constitutional under the proper strict scrutiny framework.