This week the U.S. Supreme Court reversed lower-court rulings in the case of Vicky* Crawford, allowing her suit against Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee to go to trial. (*I’ve also seen her first name spelled Vicki, don’t know which is correct.)
The way I read things, Ms. Crawford got royally screwed both by her employers and by the courts.
In 2001, Gene Hughes was hired as the employee relations manager for the school district, and by 2002 complaints had already begun to surface that Hughes was sexually harassing some of the female employees. An investigation was launched, and Ms Crawford told of her experience. She said Hughes had frequently asked to see her breasts, had grabbed his genitals in front of her, and on one occasion had even pulled her head toward his crotch.
Other female employees lodged similar complaints.
Nothing ever happened to Hughes*, but Vicky was let go on charges of embezzlement and drug use. Two other female complainants were also dismissed. (*However, Hughes was later forced to resign for resume fraud in claiming he was a lawyer, former professional football player and Navy SEAL.)
Now, for part two in this ironic story. Ms. Crawford sued on grounds of being retaliated against in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lower courts ruled that she had no case since she had not properly filied a complaint but just answered questions from the human resources department.
When her appeal got to the Supreme Court, the ruling was unanimous–in her favor.
Wrote Justice David Souter:
“Nothing in the statute requires a freakish rule protecting an employee who reports discrimination on her own initiative but not one who reports the same discrimination in the same words when her boss asks a question.”
So, she can finally get her day in court. Let justice prevail.
(Employers, don’t get yourselves into binds like these. Bone up on all applicable harassment and discrimination laws and regulations through the invaluable tools offered by Personnel Concepts.)