In Sheri Minarsky v. Susquehanna County (Pennsylvania), Minarsky alleged that over four years, her supervisor had repeatedly made unwanted advances, including by touching her inappropriately, attempting to kiss her more than 10 times and sending her inappropriate emails.
Throughout the four years, she never reported that her supervisor’s actions made her uncomfortable. She filed suit against the county alleging state and federal claims for sexual harassment.
The county moved for summary judgment based on the Faragher-Ellerth defense. Because Minarsky did not report the conduct for four years, and once she did, the supervisor was terminated, the county argued that it could not be held liable for the supervisor’s sexual harassment.
The Third Circuit Court found it could not conclude that the county exercised reasonable care to prevent the sexual harassment or that Minarsky unreasonably failed to report her supervisor’s conduct. Minarsky testified that she did not report her supervisor because management knew the supervisor had harassed at least four other women in the office but failed to take action.
Even though the county had an anti-sexual harassment policy, reprimanded him twice, and terminated him in response to Minarsky’s complaint, the court held a jury could conclude the county failed to effectively deal with the supervisor’s pattern of misconduct. Sheri Minarsky v. Susquehanna County, No. 17-2646, 895 F.3d 303 (3rd Cir. 2018)
IMPACT: Employers should not ignore or minimize less serious incidents of sexual harassment, particularly where there is a pattern of misconduct. Allowing such conduct to continue unchecked could result in employer liability.
Rachel L. Schaller and Daniel Saeedi are attorneys at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.