Sexual Harassment and Disability Accommodation Claims Dismissed
The Washington Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of an interesting case involving allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation, and disability discrimination. Briefly, the plaintiff, Moon, was allegedly asked for sex and sexually assaulted by a supervisor at her home after a party with other coworkers. She complained about the incident 8 months later. The supervisor was then instructed to have no contact with Moon. Some time later, Moon’s psychiatrist said that Moon was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder related to the incident. The employer then assigned Moon to a different shift and gave her special privileges to avoid contact with the supervisor. After Moon became uncomfortable because she and the supervisor had crossed paths, Moon resigned, and the employer responded by offering to discuss reasonable accommodations for Moon.
Moon sued for sexual harassment, retaliation, and failure to accommodate her disability. The court held that the incident at her home was not work related and her other evidence of harassment – jokes, sexist comments, and allegations that other women had been harassed – did not create a severe and pervasive hostile work environment. Also, the employer could not be held liable because there was insufficient evidence to show that the employer knew or should have known about the alleged harassment. Moon’s retaliation claim was based on her allegation that she was removed from a prestigious program because of her sexual harassment complaint. However, this claim was dismissed after Moon requested the reassignment because the supervisor who allegedly assaulted her ran the program. Finally, the reasonable accommodation disability discrimination claim was dismissed because the employer took reasonable steps to accommodate Moon’s post-traumatic stress disorder by physically separating Moon and the supervisor. In an interesting passage, the Court states:
While her symptoms of post-traumatic stress were medical in nature, they nevertheless stemmed from a personality conflict. Washington law does not require an employer to replace a supervisor when a prior incident between the supervisor and employee resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder. Certainly, an employer has no duty to separate co-workers when the post-traumatic stress disorder resulted from an off-worksite encounter and the employee has less control than a supervisor over the complaining employee. The BPD was not obligated to transfer her to a different shift.
The “unpublished” case is Moon v. City of Bellevue and is linked here.