Blizzard v. Appliance Direct, Inc.

A female employee brought suit against her former employer for retaliation and sexual harassment based on claims that, among other things, her supervisor was constantly talking about his penis including graphic descriptions of its size, and his sexual prowess, history, successes, and aspirations. Blizzard did not allege that her supervisor’s comments were directed to her. Instead, she alleged that his comments were pervasive and that the female employees who were receptive to his “management style” received favors and preferences that Blizzard did not. Blizzard’s sexual harassment claim against her employer was based on the employer’s creation of a hostile work environment. The trial court granted a directed verdict for the employer. The appellate court explained that to establish a hostile work environment claim based on harassment by a supervisor, Blizzard was required to show: (1) that she is a member of a protected group; (2) that she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment, (3) that the harassment was based on her sex, (4) that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of her employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment; and (5) that there was a basis for holding the employer liable. Relying on the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Jennings v. Univ. of North Carolina, 482 F.3d 686, 695 (4th Cir. 2007), the court found that Blizzard could maintain her claims even though the offensive language and acts at issue were not specifically directed at her and remanded the case for a new trial.



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