A former employee of Bi-State Development Agency of Missouri–Illinois Metropolitan District sued her employer for alleged supervisor sexual harassment in violation of Title VII.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment in favor of the employer. Instead, the appeals court ruled there was sufficient evidence for a jury trial to consider the employee’s quid pro quo harassment claim.
A quid pro quo harassment claim refers to an employer’s demand for sexual favors in exchange for job benefits where action is taken against an employee who refuses.
The plaintiff offered evidence that her supervisor implicitly demanded sexual favors in exchange for influencing Metro to continue her employment, and that she was terminated because she refused to cooperate with his attempts to engage her sexually.
The Eighth Circuit found that a reasonable jury could conclude that the supervisor made a strange request for grooming assistance with his facial hair in an effort to bring the plaintiff into close physical proximity and to gratify himself sexually in exchange for protecting her job. During the encounter, after the plaintiff balked at removing the ingrown hair, the supervisor allegedly reminded that plaintiff that he could prevent her from being terminated and then placed her in a locked position in which he kissed and touched her, and assured her that he would not let anything happen to her while she was on this job.
The appeals court in its opinion said that a reasonable jury could infer that the female employee’s refusal of her supervisor’s requests caused her termination.