The Supreme Court agreed last month to clarify a vexing question about employer liability in sexual harassment cases: Do employees who quit and then claim harassment possess the same rights as people who are fired?
The Supreme Court previously said that employers can be held liable for supervisors' harassment when that harassment results in a "tangible employment action" such as firing or demotion. (Faragher/Ellerth rulings)
But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that creating a work environment so hostile that a worker is compelled to quit (so-called "constructive discharge") would also constitute a tangible employment action. The Supreme Court agreed to decide once and for all whether constructive discharge would fall into that category.
The case involved a female police dispatcher who quit and sued for sexual harassment, saying her boss's dirty jokes and lewd comments made it impossible to continue at work. Look for a Supreme Court ruling by the end of June. (Suders v. Pennsylvania State Police, No. 03-95)
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