Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Ramsdell v. Western Mass. Bus Lines, Inc. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (1993)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

Here, a female employee appealed the decision of the Commission Against Discrimination which dismissed her complaint against her employer for sexual discrimination.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision.  Under Gen .L. C. 151B, §4(1) (1990), employment discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited.  The Massachusetts Code defines sexual harassment as “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; (b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.”  Gen. L. C. 151B, §1(18) (1990). 



FBG Serv. Corp. v. Anderson Nebraska Court of Appeals (1993)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Anderson worked the night shift at FBG Service Corp (“FBG”). A review conducted in November 1988 stated that Anderson’s work was “excellent.” In early or mid-July 1989, a coworker recommended Anderson for the recently vacated job of daytime supervisor, and Anderson expressed interest. The person with hiring authority told coworkers that he preferred a man for the job as it involved heavy lifting. A month later, the firm hired a man with 21 years of experience in the military and 18 years of experience in repairing machinery for a “janitorial” position at a rate of $4 an hour.



Lehmann v. Toys R Us New Jersey Supreme Court (1993)

Sexual harassment

Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a file clerk and subsequently promoted to supervisory positions. Sometime thereafter, defendant hired a new supervisor to the plaintiff. This supervisor started sexually harassing female employees, including plaintiff, through offensive sexual comments and touching. Although plaintiff immediately reported incidents to the supervisor’s boss, she was told to handle the matter herself. Upon continuing to bring incidents to the attention of the manager, plaintiff was told that she was being paranoid. Eventually plaintiff addresses the executive vice president, expressed that she felt she was being forced out of the company, and when she was offered an undesirable transfer as a solution, offered her resignation. The plaintiff sued the defendant for hostile work environment, arguing that its investigation into the harassment was inadequate. To bring a claim for hostile work environment, the plaintiff needed to show: (1) the conduct would not have occurred but for the employee’s gender; (2) the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to make a (3) reasonable woman believe (4) that the conditions of employment are altered and the working environment is hostile or abusive. The court found that even though the defendant had a written policy against sexual harassment, the manager did not keep any records about the investigation, did not document the investigation, and did not question key witnesses about events. The court found that this enabled a hostile work environment, and held the defendant liable.



Radtke v. Everett Michigan Supreme Court (1993)

Sexual harassment

Plaintiff alleged that defendant sexually harassed her during a break from work.  The Court held that “a hostile work environment claim is actionable when the work environment is so tainted that, in the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have perceived the conduct at issue as substantially interfering with employment or having the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment.”  The court found that, although generally, more than one incident of 13 is needed for a hostile work environment claim, a single incident of 13 may be sufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim if the harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor in a close working environment.   The court also held that in determining whether a hostile work environment exists, the use of the reasonable person standard was acceptable; there was no need for the court to assess based on a “reasonable woman” standard.