The Supreme Court gave a modest lift yesterday to employees who quit over intense sexual harassment and then sue, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The court also said it should be easier for employers to defend themselves against such litigation. The 8-1 ruling means that Nancy Drew Suders, who said she quit a job with the Pennsylvania State Police after a barrage of lewd comments and gestures, can take her case to a jury. The state will be allowed to rebut her allegations with evidence of its policies against sexual harassment and her failure to take advantage of them. The mixed decision had both sides claiming victory.
The case began with Suders’ five-month tenure as a dispatcher. She says supervisors’ constant torments made work unbearable. One talked about bestiality every time Suders entered his office, she said. He told another of Suders’ bosses, in front of Suders, that young girls should be taught how to give oral sex, she said. She said a third supervisor constantly grabbed his genitals and shouted a comment inviting oral sex. Because she quit, she had to prove that the harassment had created a “hostile work environment” so bad that any reasonable person would’ve resigned. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said for the court that people like Suders should qualify for the same rights as employees who allege sexual harassment and have been fired.