US Immigration and New York Employment Law

Sexual Harassment: Can You Be Protected Even If You Don’t Speak Out? – Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 129 S.Ct. 846 (2009)

This U.S. Supreme Court case is about an important question on sexual harassment, namely, can one be protected against retaliation by employer, based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if she doesn’t speak out about sexual harassment on her own initiative, but as a response to an official inquiry? (Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 129 S.Ct. 846 (2009) The Court’s answer is “yes.”

In 2002 Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (Metro) investigated rumors of sexual harassment by Metro School District’s employee relations director, Gene Hughes. When during the investigation Vicky Crawford, a 30-year Metro employee, was asked about cases of sexual harassment, she described several such cases. Two other employees also alleged that they were sexually harassed by Mr. Hughes.

Metro did not take any actions with regard to Mr. Hughes. However, Metro fired Ms. Crawford and other two alleged victims of sexual harassment. Ms. Crawford claimed that it was retaliation for her revelation of Mr. Hughes’s inappropriate behavior at workplace. She filed her claim of the violations under Title VII with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and later she filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Metro (employer). Ms. Crawford appealed at the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and lost. Finally the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision and ruled that even if the employee (Ms. Crawford) did not speak about sexual harassment on her own initiative, but in answering questions during employer’s investigation of other workers’ complains, she was still protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including anti-retaliation provisions.