Kentucky

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Domestic Case Law

M.B. v. D.W. Kentucky Court of Appeals (2007)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender discrimination

The new husband of a divorced mother of three children filed a petition seeking to adopt the remaining minor child without the consent of her biological father, effectively terminating her parental rights. After the divorce, appellant-father underwent gender reassignment surgery and now lives as a woman. The children discovered this when they visited their father in Florida and told her afterward that they no longer wanted to see her. The minor child testified that she did not want to see her father, wants to be adopted by her stepfather, and is in psychological counseling. The Hardin County Circuit Court granted the petition, finding that the children suffered psychological harm because they were not adequately prepared for their father’s transition. The Court of Appeals of Kentucky affirmed, largely on the justification that circuit courts have broad discretion in determining whether, in parental rights actions, termination is in the child’s best interest due to abuse or neglect. The Court of Appeals and trial court both noted that the appellant's sex reassignment was not the basis for terminating her parental rights. They explained that she failed to prepare her children or ex-wife at all for her transition, her minor child suffers from ongoing psychological harm, she did not meet her financial obligations for her minor child’s medical care, and her minor child wanted to be adopted by her stepfather.



McBrearty v. Kentucky Community and Technical College System Kentucky Court of Appeals (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Jenean McBrearty held an eleven-month tenure-track teaching contract with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. One of her colleagues recommended that she include an opinion poll in her course materials, but McBrearty declined, and continued to decline when her colleague pressed. After she complained about what she considered to be harassment to her supervisors, she learned that her contract would not be renewed. She filed claims of sex and disability discrimination in the Fayette County Circuit Court, but the court dismissed her claims. The Court of Appeals of Kentucky affirmed, holding that she was unable to demonstrate a prima facie case of either form of discrimination.



Murray v. Eastern Kentucky University Kentucky Court of Appeals (2009)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Phyllis Murray was a part-time and later full-time faculty member of Eastern Kentucky University. When she was hired to a full-time position, one of the terms of her contract was that she would obtain her doctorate within five years. During that period, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she received an extension on her doctoral requirement. Her request for a second extension was denied and subsequently she was fired for failing to obtain her doctorate. She brought suit against the university for gender and disability discrimination in the Madison County Circuit Court, but the court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer, finding that she failed to establish a prima facie case of either claim. Specifically, the court found that she failed to demonstrate that she was qualified for the position and that a similarly situated male colleague was treated more favorably. The Court of Appeals of Kentucky affirmed.



Withrow v. Calgon Carbon Corp. Kentucky Court of Appeals (2012)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Connie Withrow was employed as a floater technician at an industrial plant. One day she and a male coworker were assigned to light a furnace, but when they attempted to do so, there was an explosion. When Withrow was fired but her male coworker only received a 30-day suspension, she sued her employer, alleging that she was terminated because of her gender in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Boyd Circuit Court entered summary judgment in favor of the employer, finding that her employer had good cause to terminate her and that she was not similarly situated to her male colleague because she had a different role with more control during the explosion, was uncooperative during the investigation, and had more disciplinary issues on her record. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, though the trial court erred in finding that Withrow was not qualified for her job, her employer’s reason for firing her was not pretextual and that there was no evidence that the decision was based on her gender.



Thompson v. Louisville Metro Government Kentucky Court of Appeals (2013)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Dawn Thompson, an employee with the Louisville Department of Corrections, was approached by her immediate supervisor, Kevin Sidebottom, who wanted to begin a romantic relationship with her. After she rebuffed his advances, Thompson began to hear rumors that the two were romantically involved, which she denied. She was later denied a promotion to captain. Instead, the two promotions went to a woman who had the highest test scores and a man with lower test scores than Thompson. Thompson claimed that Sidebottom denied her promotion because she declined his romantic advances two years earlier. However, a higher-ranking officer claimed that he made the promotion decisions alone and declined to promote Thompson because of a recent EEO complaint against her, which was eventually dropped. Two months later, Thompson received a promotion to captain despite again hearing rumors about her romantic involvement with Sidebottom in addition to rumors that he had tried to prevent her promotion. After Thompson filed an EEO complaint, the department found that Sidebottom did not retaliate against her because he did not make the promotion decision. Thompson then sued the Louisville government and Sidebottom individually and in his professional capacity for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, but the Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that she was unable to demonstrate that the legitimate reason for her initial failure to be promoted was not the real reason she was denied, and in addition, failed to show that she suffered an adverse employment action.



Philpot v. Best Buy Kentucky Court of Appeals (2013)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Several Best Buy employees alleged that their supervisor sexually harassed them on three separate occasions. During the ensuing investigation, the three appellant-employees submitted a letter supporting their supervisor and stating that they had never seen him engage in improper conduct. While investigating the supervisor, Best Buy discovered allegations from five other employees that the three appellant-employees had also behaved in sexually inappropriate ways while at work. Best Buy hence suspended them pending an investigation and later terminated their employment after concluding the investigation. The employees brought suit against Best Buy for, among other claims, gender discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Bullitt Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Best Buy, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the employees had not sufficiently established the elements of a prima facie case of either gender discrimination or sexual harassment.



Gray v. Kenton County Kentucky Court of Appeals (2014)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Three employees of the Kenton County Clerk’s office brought claims of sexual harassment in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act against the County Clerk’s Chief Deputy in the Kenton County Circuit Court. The Chief Deputy had made a number of inappropriate comments to each employee over the course of their employment. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of the county, holding that even though the deputy had made inappropriate comments—the county had in fact asked him to resign over them—his comments were neither severe not pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed.



Ransom v. B.F. South, Inc. Kentucky Court of Appeals (2015)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Jacques Ransom was employed at one of several Wendy’s restaurants owned by B.F. South, but quit after one of her coworkers, “T.J.”, made several comments to other coworkers about Ransom’s gender reassignment surgery. When Ransom reported the comments to her supervisor, the store manager, the store and regional mangers met to discuss the situation and transferred T.J. to another Wendy’s location. Ransom was not fired or retaliated against; instead, she was promoted to crew leader and given a raise after lodging her complaint. She filed claims of hostile work environment and retaliation under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Jefferson County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Ransom’s employer, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the conduct of which Ransom complained did not rise to the level of actionable harassment because no adverse action was taken against her.



Tucker v. Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Retardation Board Kentucky Court of Appeals (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Angela Tucker, a licensed clinical social worker, requested salary increases from her employer after five years, and again after seven years, of employment, but was denied both times. She informed the director of human resources that male staff members had received large raises, and her pay was subsequently increased fifteen percent, but soon she began to be harassed by her employer and to receive additional scrutiny without justification. After her employer determined that she had inappropriately filed an involuntary hospitalization form for one of her patients, her employer required her to complete a three-month correction plan; when she refused, her employment was terminated. She filed suit against her employer for gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, but the Fayette Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that she had failed to demonstrate a causal connection between her termination and her protected action (filing an EEOC complaint).



Commonwealth v. Solly Supreme Court of Kentucky (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Donna Solly was employed as a limited-status teacher at Caldwell Area Technology Center. Her employment was not renewed. The reason her employer gave for her non-renewal was that she had had an affair with a male colleague. Solly filed suit in the Franklin County Circuit Court, alleging sex discrimination. The Circuit Court found in favor of her employer, but the Court of Appeals of Kentucky reversed and remanded, holding that she had established a prima facie case of sex discrimination. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding both that she had not established that her male colleague with whom she had had an affair was not similarly situated, and that her employer’s stated justification for firing her was not pretextual.



Banker v. University of Louisville Athletic Association, Inc. Supreme Court of Kentucky (2015)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Mary Banker, an assistant track coach at the University of Louisville, made a series of complaints about the conduct of male track coaches which she believed to be deprecating to women. When her contract was not renewed, she filed suit for retaliatory discharge, gender discrimination, and hostile work environment. The Jefferson County Circuit Court found for the university on the latter two counts, but awarded Banker damages for her retaliatory discharge. The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed on the retaliatory discharge claim, but the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that Banker had established a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge, albeit in part through circumstantial evidence of causation.



Asbury University v. Powell Supreme Court of Kentucky (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Deborah Powell was the women’s basketball coach at Asbury University who brought numerous complaints over several years to the university’s athletic director that the men’s team was receiving preferential treatment. Later, the university placed Powell on administrative leave allegedly for her having an inappropriate relationship with a female assistant coach. Powell brought suit under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act claiming that Asbury discriminated against her based on gender, defamed her, and retaliated against her for her complaints about her team receiving inferior treatment. The Jessamine Circuit Court ruled in Asbury’s favor regarding the discrimination and defamation, but in Powell’s favor on the retaliation claim. Both the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while the school had not engaged in gender discrimination, it had engaged in retaliation against Powell for her complaining about alleged gender discrimination, which is in itself unlawful.



The Board of Regents of Northern Kentucky University v. Weickgenannt Supreme Court of Kentucky (2016)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Andrea Weickgenannt was a faculty member at Northern Kentucky University who was denied tenure, despite receiving high marks in her employment evaluations. She was the only female accounting professor considered for tenure by the university in fifteen years. She brought suit alleging gender discrimination in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Campbell County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of the university, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed, but the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the Circuit Court ruling. The Supreme Court held that Ms. Weickgenannt had failed to demonstrate sufficiently that a male candidate was similarly situated.



Eubanks & Marshall, PSC v. Commonwealth Supreme Court of Kentucky (2016)

Gender discrimination

Kentucky law requires abortions to be performed at healthcare facilities licensed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but private physicians’ practices are exempt from this licensing requirement. The Cabinet brought suit against EMW Women’s Clinic of Lexington, Kentucky, to force it to comply with the licensing requirement and requested a temporary injunction to prevent the clinic from performing abortions until the courts determined its legal status as either an abortion provider, which would require the license, or a private physician’s officer. The Fayette Circuit Court denied the Cabinet’s request for an injunction, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and imposed the requested injunction, finding that the Cabinet was entitled to a presumption of irreparable injury because it demonstrated a “reasonable probability” of injury without the injunction. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the Court of Appeals had not abused its discretion.



Ross v. Commonwealth of Kentucky Supreme Court of Kentucky (2015)

Gender discrimination

Cole Ross was convicted of murder and arson. He appealed his conviction claiming, among other things, that the Commonwealth of Kentucky used its preemptory challenges to dismiss female jurors on the basis of gender. Seven out of the nine peremptory challenges used by the Commonwealth to remove prospective jurors were used to dismiss women. The trial court found that the Commonwealth’s justifications were gender neutral and non-pretextual. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kentucky found that the disproportionate striking of women jurors and the Commonwealth’s admission during jury selection that they wished to dismiss female jurors created the inference of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court of Kentucky found that this inference was not rebutted by a gender-neutral justification, thereby constituting a Batson violation. Accordingly, the Commonwealth violated the Equal Protection Clause by denying the women the right to be on a jury on the basis of their gender and thus the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings