Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

H.V.N. v. EM-M Defensa-FAA and Others Cámara Nacional de Apelaciones en lo Contencioso Administrativo Federal (National Federal Administration Appeals Court) (2015)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff filed suit against her employer, the Ministry of Defense—Argentine Air Force, seeking damages for sexual harassment and workplace persecution because her supervisor made indecent proposals, threatened her employment if she did not accede to his demands, made sexually explicit comments, and impeded her advancement.  The trial court ruled against the plaintiff on the basis that (1) a psychological report indicated that she suffered from “moderate reactive development,” therefore making it impossible to determine the level of fault that corresponded to the alleged hostile conduct or to her “moderate reactive development,” (2) while certain testimony indicated the plaintiff was subject to certain “inconveniences” caused by her supervisor, the court found that these were insufficient to support a claim of sexual harassment or other unlawful conduct and (3) the plaintiff was therefore subject to a higher burden of proof in relation to the alleged conduct and that this burden was not met.   In reversing the trial court’s ruling, the appellate court noted that (1) workplace sexual harassment is characterized by extreme psychological violence in the workplace that is both systematic and prolonged and that is carried out for the purpose of devaluing, perturbing, or debasing the victim so that the victim abandons the workplace or accepts other workplace conditions, and (2) particular difficulties arise in proving that the offensive conduct took place. For this reason, the court noted, special importance must be given to testimony given by work colleagues, medical or psychological reports to determine the existence of physical or psychological damage and documentary evidence.  Specifically, the appellate court found that the plaintiff presented sufficient witness testimony, documentary evidence and psychological and accounting reports to sustain her claims. In addition to allowing damages, the appellate court ordered the defendants to pay costs.



Sisnero, et al. v. Taldelva SRL, et al. Corta Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The plaintiffs, Mirtha Graciela Sisnero and the Women’s Foundation (Fundación Entre Mujeres), filed suit against the Automotive State Transportation Company (Sociedad Anònoma del Estado del Transporte Automotor), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Autoridad Metropolitana de Transporte), and seven companies that provided public transportation services in the city of Salta.  The plainiffs alleged, citing Ms. Sisnero’s failure to obtain a bus driver position despite having met the job requirements, that defendants refuse to hire female drivers in violation of equal rights and anti-discrimination laws. The plaintiffs demanded that (1) the defendants cease to discriminate based on gender, (2) Ms. Sisnero be hired as a bus driver, and (3) the defendants set aside a certain number of positions to be filled exclusively by women until such time as the composition of drivers reflected gender integration.  The court of first instance found in favor of the plaintiffs, mandating that 30% of openings for bus drivers be set aside exclusively for women.  The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision based on the plaintiff’s failure to prove that the defendants failed to hire Ms. Sisnero solely because she was female, further noting that the defendants’ failure to accept Ms. Sisnero’s multiple applications for employment were insufficient to sustain a claim of discrimination because the defendants were under no constitutional obligation to hire her.  The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision, noting that the appellate court failed to adequately consider the evidence provided by the plaintiffs. The lower court should have considered (1) the fact that the defendants had not hired any female bus drivers after receiving complaints from Ms. Sisnero and (2) discriminatory statements made by representatives of the defendants (e.g., “women should focus on demonstrating their culinary abilities”). The Supreme Court further noted that once the claimant has proven the existence of acts that are allegedly discriminatory, it is the defendant’s burden to disprove the existence of the alleged discrimination.   



Employment Termination (Jurisprudential Thesis Docket: 2a./J.66/2017 (10a.)) Supreme Court of Mexico (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

“EMPLOYMENT TERMINATION. WHEN EMPLOYMENT IS TERMINATED DURING AN EMPLOYEE’S PREGNANCY, THE EMPLOYER BEARS THE BURDEN OF PROOF TO DEMONSTRATE THAT SUCH TERMINATION WAS NOT DISCRIMINATORY.”

This jurisprudential thesis is a relevant example of case law, as the criteria issued by the Mexican Supreme Court is binding on all courts in the country. Mexico recognizes labor matters as independent from other matters of law, with a unique set of courts, legislation, and doctrine. This case law in particular comes from two different isolated theses, as settled by two different federal courts. The first case was settled by the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Labor Matters of the Third Circuit, and the second case was settled by the Third Collegiate Tribunal of Circuit in the Assistant Center of the Tenth Region. Both court resolutions contained contradictory substantive issues, which prompted the Supreme Court to settle these discrepancies. The Supreme Court acknowledged that all pregnant women should enjoy certain specific rights resulting from pregnancy. The Court also found that these rights should be extended to the postnatal period. The Supreme Court recognized that most pregnant women will likely face a lack of job security given the costs that maternity leave implies for most employers. The Supreme Court determined that pregnant women require certain social security benefits in order to eliminate the barriers and obstacles that they may face during the pre- and postnatal periods. When a pregnant employee is terminated and argues that the termination was discriminatory, the employer bears the burden of proving that such termination was not due to the woman’s pregnancy or any other discriminatory reason. In such scenarios, the courts must take a gender perspective approach in deciding such controversies in order to be able to effectively guarantee the rights of women recognized under the Mexican Constitution and international treaties to which Mexico is a signatory.

 

“TERMINACIÓN DEL EMPLEO. "CUANDO EL EMPLEO SE TERMINA DURANTE EL EMBARAZO DE UN EMPLEADO, EL EMPLEADOR ASUME LA CARGA DE PROBAR QUE DICHA TERMINACIÓN NO FUE DISCRIMINATORIA".

Esta tesis jurisprudencial es un ejemplo relevante de jurisprudencia, ya que los criterios emitidos por el Tribunal Supremo de México son de relevancia para todos los tribunales del país. México reconoce que los asuntos laborales son independientes de otros asuntos de la ley, con un conjunto único de tribunales, legislación y doctrina. Esta jurisprudencia en particular proviene de dos tesis diferentes, según lo resuelto por dos tribunales federales diferentes. El primer caso fue resuelto por el Tercer Tribunal Colegiado en Asuntos Laborales del Tercer Circuito, y el segundo caso fue resuelto por el Tercer Tribunal Colegiado de Circuito en el Centro Asistente de la Décima Región. Ambas resoluciones judiciales contenían cuestiones sustantivas contradictorias, lo que llevó a la Corte Suprema a resolver estas discrepancias. La Corte Suprema reconoció que todas las mujeres embarazadas deberían disfrutar de ciertos derechos específicos derivados del embarazo. El Tribunal también determinó que estos derechos deberían extenderse al período postnatal. La Corte Suprema reconoció que la mayoría de las mujeres embarazadas probablemente enfrentarán una falta de seguridad laboral, dado los costos que la licencia de maternidad implica para la mayoría de los empleadores. La Corte Suprema determinó que las mujeres embarazadas requieren ciertos beneficios de seguridad social para eliminar las barreras y obstáculos que pueden enfrentar durante los períodos pre y postnatal. Cuando una empleada embarazada es despedida y argumenta que la terminación fue discriminatoria, el empleador tiene la responsabilidad de probar que dicha terminación no se debió al embarazo de la mujer ni a ninguna otra razón discriminatoria. En tales escenarios, los tribunales deben adoptar un enfoque de perspectiva de género al decidir tales controversias para poder garantizar de manera efectiva los derechos de las mujeres reconocidos en la Constitución mexicana y los tratados internacionales de los que México es parte.



Kamaze v. State High Court (2013)

Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of raping his minor daughter and sentenced to 18 years and three years imprisonment, for rape and incest respectively, to run concurrently. He appealed his conviction, claiming that his minor daughter was the only witness to the alleged crime, that the trial judge improperly assumed the complainant was under 18 years old, that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof, that his rights to legal representation were not explained, and that the sentences were unreasonable. The High Court of Namibia (“High Court”) determined that the child’s testimony was sufficient to sustain the conviction pursuant to Section 208 of Act 51 of 1977, which allows for conviction based on “the single evidence of any competent witness.”  The High Court held that “although the complainant is a single witness to the actual rape, the fact that she immediately reported that to her sister and her niece corroborates her evidence,” and that the medical report, which was the result of a doctor’s examination conducted on the night of the rape after the complainant took a bath, corroborated her account of being raped.  However, the High Court allowed the appeal on the charge of incest.  The High Court cited the “single intent” test, which requires that two criminal acts be considered as one transaction if the evidence for one of the acts necessarily involves proof of another criminal act.  The Court stated that the defendant had a single intent – to rape his daughter – so he should only be convicted of one crime (rape) rather than two. 



State v. Naruseb High Court (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Mr. Naruseb was tried for beating and raping his girlfriend A.S. (the third complainant), sexually abusing and beating their 5-month-old male and female twin children, and murdering his son by throwing him on the floor.  Medical experts testified that the injuries on the twins suggested sexual and other physical violence.  Denying the charges, the accused testified that A.S., the children’s mother, beat the twins and assaulted the accused. The accused also argued that there was no credible evidence of the crime and that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof because A.S. was the only eye-witness to the accused’s alleged crimes. The High Court of Namibia disagreed, finding the accused not credible and finding the A.S. credible, not least because the circumstantial and medical evidence supported her testimony. Citing precedent regarding single witnesses, the Court determined that a single eye-witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction if the witness (a) is credible, (b) gives her statement in a straight-forward manner, and (c) has no reason to falsely incriminate the accused.  In addition, an inference may be properly drawn from the fact that the accused and the complainant were the only two adults in the room between the time the complainant went to bed at night without injuries and when she awoke in the morning with injuries. This finding is significant for domestic violence cases, which often do not involve unbiased third-party testimony.  



Roper v. Jolliffe Court of Appeals of Texas (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Joliffe was granted a temporary ex parte protective order against Roper, with whom she aws in a relationship, following an incident of violence at Roper’s apartment, with a hearing on the matter of the protective order scheduled eight days later. Roper motioned for limited discovery and a jury trial. The jury trial was denied but the limited discovery was granted. The court granted Jolliffe a two year protective order, finding by a preponderance of the evidence that Roper was a threat, and ordered Roper to participate in the Batterer’s Intervention and Counselling Program (BIPP). Roper argued to the Court of Appeals that he was entitled to a jury trial under the Texas state Constitution. The court determined that Roper was not entitled to a jury because the state legislature’s intent concerning protective orders was for the court to be the sole fact finder. Roper never formally requested discovery, so he was not denied a meaningful opportunity to defend himself under the due process clause. Roper argued that he was entitled to a higher burden of proof than preponderance of the evidence, citing the criminal undertones of domestic violence civil proceedings, but the court found that preponderance of the evidence was the correct standard.



Expediente 07-200123-0306-PE Tribunal de Apelación de Sentencia del Tercer Circuito Judicial de Alajuela, Sección Tercera (2013)

Sexual violence and rape

The public defender is appealing a conviction of sexual assault on behalf of his client. The appeal argues that (1) the facts alleged are imprecise and ambiguous (e.g., how is it possible to restrain someone’s arms while touching them at the same time?) and (2) the sexual contact was consensual because there was no evidence of the victim’s fighting back, she didn’t scream for help, had no injuries or physical signs of assault. Given the alleged failure to show that the contact was not consensual, the public defender argues that a charge of sexual harassment would be more appropriate, since the defendant was the victim’s employer. The court rejected the appeal, stating that the burden is not on the victim to show physical or objective signs of nonconsent; rather, the burden is on the defendant to show that the victim consented, which he failed to do. The court notes that victims are not obligated to display certain actions or behaviors to prove they did not consent to sexual contact. The court also notes that it is important to analyze each case on an individual basis, and not to reinforce stereotypes regarding victims’ behaviors. The court also dismissed the argument regarding the imprecise nature of the facts presented at the initial proceeding on the basis that the incident occurred six years ago, when the victim was 18 years old.

 

El defensor público está apelando la convicción de asalto sexual de su cliente. La apelación propone que, (1) los hechos alegados son imprecisos y ambiguos (por ejemplo, ¿cómo es posible contener los brazos de alguien y tocarlos sexualmente al mismo tiempo?) y (2) el acto sexual fue consensual porque no hay evidencia de que la víctima se resistiera, gritara pidiendo ayuda, o tuviera lesiones u otras marcas físicas de asalto. Dado el fallo en mostrar que el acto no fue consensual, el defensor público propone que un cargo de acoso sexual sería más apropiado, ya que el acusado era el empleador de la víctima. La corte rechazó la apelación concluyendo que la carga legal de probar que hubo falta de consenso mútuo en el acto sexual, no está en la víctima. La carga probatoria cae en el acusado, quien tiene que mostrar que la víctima consintió al acto sexual, lo cuál él falló en demostrar. La corte agregó que las víctimas no están obligadas a mostrar actos específicos o ciertos comportamientos para demostrar que no consintieron al acto sexual. Es importante analizar cada caso individualmente y no intensificando estereotipos con respecto a los comportamientos esperados de una víctima. La corte también rechazó el argumento con respecto a la imprecisión de la evidencia física discutido en el procedimiento inicial referente a que los actos ocurrieron seis años atrás cuando la víctima tenía 18 años de edad.