Doe v. University of Connecticut
Lack of proof of direct economic harm is not an affirmative defense to a worker's claim he was sexually harassed, because his immediate supervisor allegedly forced the worker to engage in anal and oral sex. In 2002, the defendant employer, the University of Connecticut, hired the plaintiff, John Doe, as a program aide. Doe's complaint alleged that his supervisor forced Doe to perform anal and oral sex in the workplace, two to three times per week. On May 6, 2006, UConn police arrested Doe, because he allegedly threatened his supervisor at a work-related social function. In June 2006, Doe complained about sexual harassment to UConn's Office of Diversity, which concluded that Doe's supervisor violated UConn's sexual harassment policy. Doe's supervisor resigned. Doe sued UConn, alleging that he was subjected to sexual harassment and subjected to retaliation when he complained, in violation of his rights under Title VII, 42 United States Code §2000. UConn moved for summary judgment and argued that Doe did not prove an adverse employment action, because his salary remained unchanged and he was not demoted. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of the individual's sex. Employers can assert an affirmative defense, if the harassment does not result in tangible employment action, such as discharge, failure to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities or a significant change in benefits. The District Court found that a worker who alleges he was required to engage in unwanted sexual acts is not required to prove additional direct economic harm. The court denied UConn's motion for summary judgment on the sexual harassment count. In his retaliation count, Doe claimed that his resistance to sexual advances constituted protected activity. If that were correct, every harassment claim would automatically include a retaliation claim. No reasonable jury, wrote the District Court, could find a causal connection between Doe's protected activity and UConn's adverse actions. The court granted UConn's motion for summary judgment on Doe's retaliation count.