Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Allen v. Dep't. of Employment and Training Vermont Supreme Court (1992)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff was denied unemployment benefits by the Employment Security Board because prior to quitting her job, she did not notify her business manager that she was being sexually harassed by her supervisor. The plaintiff appealed. Plaintiff worked as a secretary for housekeeping and maintenance.  For several months during her employment, the plaintiff’s supervisor made repeated sexual advances towards her by grabbing her, kissing her, and apologizing thereafter.  Plaintiff complained once, but otherwise never complained to anyone other than her supervisor, and eventually quit her job out of fear of further unwanted sexual advances.  She testified that she had never received a personnel policy, never knew of the existence of such a policy, and believed that she was to complain to her immediate supervisor.  Notwithstanding, the Board found the plaintiff did not show that she had “good cause” to quit her job, since her business manager had no knowledge of the harassment.  Under 21 V.S.A. § 1344(a)(2)(A), a party may not receive unemployment benefits where she quits voluntarily unless she shows she quit with “good cause.”  On appeal, the court found that if there were a personnel policy in effect, there was no evidence that it was ever made known or available to the defendant’s employees.  The court found that the plaintiff could not adhere to a policy (to notify a manager) that is not “sufficiently disseminated by the employer to employees.”  Thus, the court reversed the Board’s conclusion and remanded the matter.

Kelley Co., Inc. v. Marquardt Wisconsin Supreme Court (1992)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiff Marquardt took eight weeks off for maternity leave and vacation.  During that time, her supervisor reorganized the division in which she worked and redefined her responsibilities.  He did not inform her of these changes.  Included in the reorganization was the elimination of plaintiff’s position as credit manager.  The position was divided into two positions, and Marquardt’s supervisory responsibilities decreased.  Her new position also involved 25% clerical work, whereas in her old position, she had no clerical work.  She received the same pay and benefits and had the same office as her prior position.  The Court found that the plaintiff in this case was not returned to her equivalent employment position after her return from maternity leave, which is required under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  It held that although an employer may reorganize a department while an employee is on leave, and give an employee new job duties, it must still give the employee equivalent job duties.  An equivalent employment position “means a position with equivalent compensation, benefits, working shift, hours of employment, job status, responsibility and authority.”  It also held that the plaintiff was properly awarded back pay and that plaintiff’s “interim earnings and amounts earnable with reasonable diligence should be considered when back pay is awarded under the FMLA.”

Roberson v. University of Tennessee Tennessee Supreme Court (1992)

Gender discrimination

Employee filed suit against her employer, the University of Tennessee, alleging sex discrimination under the Equal Pay Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”).  She also alleged that her employer retaliated against her for filing an EEOC charge.  The Court of Appeals held that there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict that she had suffered discrimination and that her employer retaliated against her.  Plaintiff was an employee of the University’s Agricultural Extension Service since 1980.  She was eligible for a promotion in 1986, but was not promoted.  Her co-worker, however, who started in 1979, was promoted.  Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge.  She then brought an action for sex discrimination under the Equal Pay Act and THRA and alleged that defendant retaliated against her for filing the EEOC charge.  The Court found sufficient evidence to uphold the jury verdict granting plaintiff $13,600 on her discrimination claim, $50,000 on her retaliation claim, and $26,000 in attorney’s fees.  The Court noted evidence that plaintiff’s evaluation scores were adjusted downward after she signed off on them and before they were given to the Dean who made decisions regarding pay and promotion.  There was also evidence that complaints against her were taken more seriously than complaints against her peers.  One of her supervisors admitted that he stopped recommending her for promotions after she filed the EEOC charge, and that management took much more time and effort over small matters that related to the plaintiff.