Appeals Court Decision Shows Any Employer in New York and Elsewhere May be Held Accountable for Sexual Harassment

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has held that a former Justice Court Administrator’s sexual harassment lawsuit may proceed. In Eisenhour v. Weber County, et. al, Marcia Eisenhour accused a Weber County, Utah judge of sexually harassing her at work. The judge, Craig Storey, allegedly wrote sexually explicit materials about Eisnehour, engaged in unwanted touching, and told her he loved her. According to Eisenhour, Storey retaliated against her after she rebuffed his advances. Eisenhour also claims her complaints to the county and a Judicial Conduct Commission regarding the judge’s behavior were dismissed without full consideration.

While an investigation into Storey’s behavior was ongoing, Eisenhour was placed on administrative leave. Although she was no longer supervised by Judge Storey when she returned to work, Eisenhour purportedly complained to several newspapers regarding the outcome of the investigation. Not long after two related articles were published, the county closed the Justice Court due to a purported budget shortfall. The closure resulted in Eisenhour’s unemployment.

Eisenhour then filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Weber County and Judge Storey in federal court. A U.S. District Court Judge granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed her Eisenhour’s case. Following the dismissal, Eisenhour appealed her case to the Tenth Circuit.

Although the appeals court affirmed a portion of the trial court’s order, the Tenth Circuit held that a genuine issue of material fact existed with regard to Eisenhour’s equal protection, First Amendment, and a portion of her Whistleblower Act claims. According to the court, Eisenhour’s equal protection claim should not have been dismissed because Judge Storey was not entitled to qualified immunity regarding the alleged harassment. Additionally, the appellate court stated Eisenhour’s comments to the press were protected speech and there was sufficient evidence on which to infer that her statements played a factor in the county’s decision to close the Justice Court.

Despite the Tenth Circuit’s decision, it affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss Eisenhour’s Title VII retaliation claim for lack of jurisdiction because she failed to exhaust the appropriate administrative remedy. The court stated although Eisenhour filed a sexual harassment claim with the nations’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she should also have referred to the alleged retaliatory acts because the two were “reasonably related.”

The hardworking lawyers at Phillips & Associates have many years of experience representing the victims of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination in New York City and surrounding areas. At Phillips & Associates, our caring attorneys are available to help you protect your rights at the municipal, state, and federal levels. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a knowledgeable advocate, please call our quality lawyers at (212) 248-7431 or contact Phillips & Associates through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Brings Attention to Unlawful Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination in New York City and Throughout Nation, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 26, 2013
11th Circuit Ruling in Sex Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Case Sends Tough Message to Employers in New York and Across the U.S., New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 18, 2013
Additional Resources:

Appeals court revives sexual harassment suit against Utah judge, by Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune

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