State Supreme Court won’t say probable sexual harassment violated Texas law

In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the Texas Supreme Court just refused to broadly define sexual harassment in the workplace. Instead, the court found that generalized harassment at work—even if it’s morally reprehensible—doesn’t necessarily violate the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

Recent case: Catherine was hired as a girls’ sports coach at a middle school near San Antonio. Soon, she claims, a coach named Anne began to sexually harass her. For example, she recounted that Anne asked others whether they should name the dimples on Catherine’s buttocks. Anne also discussed sex, making lewd comments about Catherine’s sexuality. Anne also once grabbed Catherine’s buttocks in public while someone else took photographs.

Catherine complained to her supervisor, but claimed this just made the harassment worse—her boss allegedly joined in.

Then Catherine complained to the EEOC, claiming a sexually hostile work environment. Shortly afterward, she was fired, allegedly for poor performance.

The case worked its way up to the Texas Supreme Court. The school district argued that even if bullying had occurred, Catherine hadn’t shown it was motivated by her sex. For example, she presented no evidence that Anne was gay or that the bullying was motivated by sexual desire.

The Supreme Court sided with the district, reasoning that while the alleged behavior was unacceptable in the workplace, it didn’t technically break the law. Catherine’s case was dismissed. (Alamo Heights Independent School District v. Clark, Texas Supreme Court, 2018)