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South Bend postal boss’s comments not harassment

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Jennifer Ohda was hired in 2004 as a part-time mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in South Bend. On her first day, Ohda was assigned to a male training officer named Dale. At the end of Ohda’s shift, a supervisor, Linda Batteast, said, “Dale, tell your little helper to go home tonight and eat something.”

Over the next few weeks, Batteast continued to call Ohda a “little helper” and referred to Ohda’s weight in front of male co-workers. In August, Ohda met with several managers, including the South Bend postmaster, to complain. The managers told her Batteast is a good employee who may have been having a bad day.

The next day, Ohda resigned. She later sued for sexual harassment and constructive discharge—essentially contending that she had no choice but to quit. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was the basis for her lawsuit.

The court found that the harassment Ohda suffered was not based on her sex. Also, the court ruled that “two or three offhand statements by a supervisor” were not severe or pervasive enough to constitute harassment. Title VII, the court noted, is not a “general civility code.”

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