Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Liu v. Zhu Court of Huilai County, Guangdong Province (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Sexual violence and rape, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff Liu alleged that she had a illegitimate son with a Yang when she was working in Sichuan province. Soon after that, she was having another child with a Chen. Since Chen was not going to perform his duty as a father, Liu decided to give birth to the child and raise it herself. Several months later, Liu’s first son, Yang was introduced by a matchmaker to the respondent as an adopted son. Out of the strait situation Liu faces, she agreed. Several days later, the respondent Zhu proposed since the son is too naughty and needs his mother to look after him, it is better that Liu came along. Liu came and Zhu’s little brother asked Liu to marry Zhu, and they will pay her 100,000 as gift, but Liu need to take care of Zhu. Liu agreed. After the wedding, Liu found out the respondent was disabled and sit on a wheelchair, having no sexual capability. However, the respondent kept sexually harassing the plaintiff. Plaintiff argued that she was cheated to get married, and Zhu lacks sexual ability, therefore she sued for divorce. The court finds that although the marriage is facilitated by a matchmaker, the two have lived together for many years and have developed some feelings for each other. Plaintiff’s arguments are not supported by any evidence, thus are not considered by the court.


Liu v. Zhu Court of Huilai County, Guangdong Province (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Sexual violence and rape, Sexual harassment

The plaintiff Liu alleged that she had a illegitimate son with a Yang when she was working in Sichuan province. Soon after that, she was having another child with a Chen. Since Chen was not going to perform his duty as a father, Liu decided to give birth to the child and raise it herself. Several months later, Liu’s first son, Yang was introduced by a matchmaker to the respondent as an adopted son. Out of the strait situation Liu faces, she agreed. Several days later, the respondent Zhu proposed since the son is too naughty and needs his mother to look after him, it is better that Liu came along. Liu came and Zhu’s little brother asked Liu to marry Zhu, and they will pay her 100,000 as gift, but Liu need to take care of Zhu. Liu agreed. After the wedding, Liu found out the respondent was disabled and sit on a wheelchair, having no sexual capability. However, the respondent kept sexually harassing the plaintiff. Plaintiff argued that she was cheated to get married, and Zhu lacks sexual ability, therefore she sued for divorce. The court finds that although the marriage is facilitated by a matchmaker, the two have lived together for many years and have developed some feelings for each other. Plaintiff’s arguments are not supported by any evidence, thus are not considered by the court.


Byers v. Labor and Indus. Review Comm. Wisconsin Supreme Court (1997)

Sexual harassment

Here, the petitioner obtained a restraining order against her co-worker who had constantly harassed the petitioner and repeatedly made sexual advances towards her. The co-worker violated the restraining order and the petitioner complained to her employer to take measures to stop the harassment. Despite her complaints , the co-worker was not terminated, suspended or reprimanded for his sexual harassment. The petitioner finally filed a complaint with the Equal Rights Division of the DILHR “alleging sex discrimination by the employer for allowing the co-[worker] to sexually harass her at work in violation of WFEA.” The DILHR held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear her case because the Worker’s Compensation Act (WCA) provided her sole remedy for her work-related injury. The WCA exclusive remedy provision “mandates that when the conditions for an employer’s liability under the WCA exists, the employee’s right to recover compensation under the WCA shall be the employee’s exclusive remedy against an employer.” Since the petitioner had previously raised a complaint under the WCA for her employer’s failure to take action to remedy the sexual harassment and that complaint had been dismissed, the petitioner no longer had any remedies available.


Hat Six Homes, Inc. v. State Wyoming Supreme Court (2000)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Appellant-employer challenged the decision from the District Court, affirming findings of appellee, Wyoming Department of Employment, Unemployment Insurance Commission, holding, among other things, that appellee employee had quit her employment with appellant employer for good cause under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-3-311(a)(i) (1997).  In this case, appellee-employee left her employment because of sexual harassment and hostile work environment. This included the president of appellant-employer touching her under her shirt and behind her knees in an unwelcome manner and continuing this behavior after appellee employee asked him to stop. Additionally, conduct of the vice-president created a tension that “could [be] cut . . . with a knife . . .” On several occasions, the vice-president threw around staplers and cellular phones and yelled at customers and other employees. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the District Court’s decision and held that this conduct on the part of appellant-employer sufficed for the determination that appellee-employee had quit her employment for good cause.


Madeja v. MPB Corp. New Hampshire Supreme Court (2003)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff worked for the defendant, who manufactured ball bearings. After commencing work, the plaintiff’s trainer told a supervisor that he could not work around the plaintiff due to her attitude. The plaintiff responded that the trainer had been engaging in sexually harassing behavior. The supervisor warned the trainer, following which the trainer did not bother the plaintiff again, but was hostile towards her. Soon thereafter, another trainer, friend of the previous trainer, started making complaints about plaintiff. After this new complaint, the supervisor inspected the plaintiff’s work and concluded she was unproductive. The supervisor then spoke with the senior shift supervisor about the plaintiff’s low productivity. The shift supervisor did not know about the plaintiff’s complaint against the trainer and recommended that the supervisor terminate the plaintiff. The plaintiff was subsequently terminated and then sued the defendant for sexual harassment. The jury during the trial found the defendant was guilty for a hostile work environment under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 354-A. The defendant argued that the judge’s jury instructions were improper because they would hold the defendant liable for a merely negligent response to the sexual harassment, which should be insufficient to find liability. The court noted that under N.H. Rev. Stat. § 354-A, an employer is liable for sexual harassment committed by a co-worker of the plaintiff if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt, effective remedial action to end the harassment. The court further noted that an employer may be liable for an employee’s sexual harassment based on the employer’s negligence to remedy the situation.


Schneider v. Plymouth State College New Hampshire Supreme Court (1999)

Sexual harassment

Here, the plaintiff was a student at the defendant-college. The plaintiff took a course with a professor, had a positive experience and ultimately majored in the subject of the class. The professor became the plaintiff’s academic advisor. Subsequently, the professor began to sexually harass the plaintiff. When the plaintiff refused the professor’s advances, he grew angry and threatened to make her life very difficult. He withheld academic support for her and ridiculed her in front of faculty. He also gave her a poor mark for her work as an intern without ever consulting the supervisor at the company. The plaintiff reported the harassment to faculty members (to a professor and the dean of the college). The plaintiff also reported the harassment in a paper to a professor, but no action was taken in response. The plaintiff eventually spoke with another professor about the harassment but wished to remain anonymous for fear of worse treatment by the professor. That professor then told the chair of the college’s art department. Further, more students had reported the harassment of the plaintiff. Action was not taken against the professor though because the plaintiff wished to remain anonymous and the school would not act without a “firsthand account.” After the plaintiff graduated, she wrote to the dean who was acting as interim president of the school that she was harassed as a student. The professor was then dismissed on the ground of moral delinquency. The plaintiff then sued the defendant for vicarious liability for the professor’s sexual harassment. She also claimed breach of fiduciary duty. The court found that there was a fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant; the plaintiff depended on the defendant for her education and relied upon the defendant to adopt and enforce practices to minimize danger that students will be exposed to sexual harassment. The court did not analyze the school’s liability under the hostile environment theory as it found the school guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty. Thus, in an academic setting, a plaintiff may be entitled to relief for harassment under a breach of fiduciary duty in addition to the usual hostile environment claims.


Mancini v. Township of Teaneck New Jersey Supreme Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff was hired as a police officer. Since the beginning of her employment she felt that other members of the Department were unhappy because they felt it was not a job for women. Plaintiff also suffered sexual harassment. During her first four years there, plaintiff had a locker in the men’s room as there were no women’s locker rooms, and male co-workers would shower and walk around naked in the locker room. Plaintiff’s boss told her that he did not expect her to make it as an officer, that he did not want women on the job, and that he would not accommodate her, but that he had a mattress waiting for her in his closet. The plaintiff interpreted this as a sexual advance. Plaintiff also received other inappropriate remarks, for example, in response to plaintiff’s complaint about not having a shower, her boss told her several times that he would wash her. Officers also kept pornographic magazines and pinups both at work and in patrol cars. The plaintiff also received in her mailbox at work panties, a motel key, and a note reading, “back stabbing c-t.” There were also sexual cartoons, some pertaining to her and others to other women. Plaintiff ultimately sued for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The trial court vacated the punitive damages and reduced the compensatory damages. The defendant appealed, asserting laches – that the plaintiff unreasonably delayed in filing the suit. The court found the defendant did not make an adequate factual record in this defense and it otherwise affirmed the holding finding the defendant liable.


N.C. v. P.R. Caldwell Alabama Supreme Court (2011)

Sexual violence and rape, Sexual harassment

N.C., a minor, filed a personal injury action against her physical education teacher, her school principal, and the Tallapoosa County Board of Education. N.C. alleged that, following her 7th grade physical education class, she was pulled into the boys’ locker room and raped by A.H, a 12th grade student who her teacher, Mr. Caldwell, had allegedly appointed as a teacher’s aide. N.C.’s complaint alleged that Mr. Caldwell had actual knowledge that A.H. was sexually harassing students and negligently or wantonly supervised N.C. and the other students in her class. Mr. Caldwell, the principal, and the Board filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that N.C.’s claims were barred by the doctrine of State-agent immunity. N.C. opposed entry of summary judgment only against Mr. Caldwell. The trial court found that the doctrine of immunity is strong and the Supreme Court “has been particularly reluctant to hold an educator responsible for sexual misconduct by another.” On that ground, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Caldwell on the basis of Stage-agent immunity. On appeal, the court considered an exception to the law of State-agent immunity, which provides that “a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity . . . when the State acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.” N.C. argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell acted beyond his authority: (1) when he allegedly failed to properly supervise A.H.; (2) when he allegedly allowed A.H. to act as a teacher’s aide; and (3) when he ignored and failed to report previous claims by other female students. The appellate court held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell actually appointed A.H. as a student aide, and, if he did, whether he acted beyond his authority in doing so. The court also found that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell was actually aware that A.H. was sexually harassing other female students and, if he was, whether he failed to respond to the allegations. Thus, the appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment for Mr. Caldwell.


Hill v. Ford Motor Co. Missouri Supreme Court (2009)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Cynthia Hill worked under the supervision of various people including Kenny Hune. Mr. Hune often made sexual comments to Ms. Hill and asked her inappropriate personal questions. Ms. Hill told Mr. Hune that she was offended by his comments and she repeatedly rejected his sexual advances. Upon receiving a complaint about Mr. Hune from Ms. Hill and another female employee, group leader Pete Wade raised these complaints with Mr. Hune. A few months after this, Ms. Hill was assigned to Mr. Hune’s supervision, where Mr. Hune refused to work with her, branded her a hostile worker, and created problems over small or non-issues. When Ms. Hill sought to bring a complaint to Mr. Edds, the labor relations supervisor, Mr. Edds told Ms. Hill to get psychiatric help and not return to work until she had done so. Upon receiving such treatment Ms. Hill resorted to the company’s 24-hour “Hotline” to report Mr. Edds and Mr. Hune. An hour later, Mr. Edds had suspended Ms. Hill from work for three days for a minor mistake. Upon Ms. Hill’s return to work, Mr. Edds told her she had been fired. The Missouri Supreme Court held that there were genuine issues of material fact to preclude the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer. There was enough evidence for a jury to find that Mr. Hune had created a hostile work environment through his constant sexual harassment, which would constitute gender discrimination under MHRA 213.055.


Gavin v. Rogers Tech. Servs., Inc. Nebraska Supreme Court (2008)

Sexual harassment

Gavin worked as the personal assistant to Rogers, president of RTSI. A few days into her employment, Gavin discovered that the conversations between her and Rogers always had a sexual overtone, if not outright about sex. One day, when Gavin entered Rogers’ home office in the morning, Gavin appeared to be wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts. Gavin immediately left and never returned to work again. On these facts, Gavin brought a sexual harassment suit under VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against RISI.


Chambers v. Trettco, Inc. Michigan Supreme Court (2000)

Sexual harassment

A former employee brought an action against her employer under the Michigan Civil Rights Act.  She alleged that the employer was vicariously liable for 13 she suffered under her temporary supervisor.  The Michigan Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals wrongly relied on federal law to claims brought under the Michigan Civil Rights Act regarding 13.  The Michigan Supreme Court described two types of 13 outlined under Michigan law (M.C.L. § 37.2103(i), one type, “quid pro quo harassment” occurs when submission to conduct is a term or condition to obtain employment, or is used as a factor in determining decisions regarding employment.  A hostile work environment occurs when an employee must show that the employee was subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct or communication on the basis of sex, and “was intended to or in fact did substantially interfere with the employee’s employment or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, and respondeat superior.  The court noted that while it has found vicarious liability in cases of quid pro quo harassment, it has not when the allegation is hostile work environment because there the supervisor “acts outside the scope of actual or apparent authority to hire, fire, discipline or promote.”  Instead, an employer will be vicariously liable if the employee shows that the employer failed to take prompt remedial action.  The court found no evidence of quid pro quo harassment; however, it did find that plaintiff’s testimony established a hostile work environment claim.  It remanded the case for a determination of whether the employer failed to take prompt remedial action in response to her hostile work environment claim.


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.


Hoy v. Angelone Superior Court of Pennsylvania (1997)

Sexual harassment

Louise Hoy worked at Shop-Rite as a meat-wrapper.  During her tenure there, Dominick Angelone repeatedly subjected her to sexual propositions, filthy language, off-color jokes, physical groping, and the posting of sexually suggestive pictures in the workplace.  Eventually Hoy took medical leave to receive psychiatric treatment; when she returned, she requested that the store manager move her to another department.  In order to recover under a hostile environment claim, the employee must prove that (1) she suffered intentional sex discrimination because of her sex; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected the employee; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same sex in that position; and (5) the existence of respondeat superior liability.  Hoy established the first four elements but Shop-Rite argued that it could not be liable under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act for Angelone’s conduct because it did not know nor had reason to know of the existence of a sexually hostile environment, and it took remedial action.  A plaintiff may establish an employer’s knowledge by showing (i) that she complained to higher management or (ii) that the harassment was so pervasive that the employer will be charged with constructive knowledge.  The court upheld the jury’s finding that the store manager knew or should have been aware of the conduct before Hoy requested transfer out of the meat department and failed to take remedial action; indeed, the conduct was so pervasive that several of Hoy’s coworkers knew of the abuse.  Thus, Shop-Rite was liable for Angelone’s conduct because the manager failed to take remedial action despite this knowledge.


Trayling v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners Court of Appeals Second District (1995)

Sexual harassment

Karen McGloon was employed by the village fire department as a secretary. Guy Trayling was a lieutenant with the fire department and worked in the same office as McGloon. On one occasion Trayling kissed McGloon on the cheek and on another he put his han


State v. Human Rights Commission Court of Appeals Fourth District (1989)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Lynda Savage filed a complaint against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that she had been sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor, Nicholas Howell, and discharged in retaliation. Howell would describe women by their physical attribut