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Sexual Harassment Case


In 1991, a regional bank hired Betty as an administrative secretary. In 1997, Betty transferred to a new department under a corporate restructuring. Her new boss, Tony, president of a bank affiliate, immediately insisted that Betty join him for lunch on a regular basis; as a result, they spent more and more time together. Betty often wore very short skirts and high-heeled shoes. At times, dressed in this manner, she sat on Tony's desk facing him. Tony telephoned Betty after working hours, sometimes went to her home for parties with other employees, and paid for corrective eye surgery. Betty's salary doubled in less than 3½ years. When Betty was rude to Cliff, the bank's CEO, Cliff told Tony to fire Betty. Tony convinced Cliff to allow him to transfer her to another department. Tony never told Betty. Betty is convinced that she was forced to take another bank position that should have been posted; and as a result, other bank employees are angry and resentful.

In 1998, Tony arranged for Jane, an accountant, to join his department. Tony had known Jane before; in fact, he somehow persuaded Jane to work under his supervision and pass up a higher paying job in a large city. Jane was flirtatious and teased male employees, including Tony. As with Betty, Tony often asked Jane to go to lunch. She accepted. Tony gave Jane his old company cell phone when he got a new one; they talked for extended periods. Tony and Jane traveled together on bank business.

Tony spent a large amount of time with both Betty and Jane in their offices. These three worked very closely together on bank projects. Soon, an "affair" rumor began to spread concerning Jane. Although untrue, Tony did little to address the rumor. In August of 2000, Jane complained to some of her co-workers but asked them not to say or do anything about her complaints. In September 2000, she complained to the Human Resources Department. Within 10 days, the bank conducted an internal investigation - Tony resigned. Jane took another job before she resigned from the bank, at the same or greater pay, but Betty remained at the bank.

Since Tony left, Betty's job location was changed with the consent of her attorney and no reduction in pay or new duties. Betty reports that co-workers exclude her from department meetings and bank social functions. Betty feels ostracized and alleges that she is now in a hostile work environment. Betty had assumed that she would receive a superior position to Carol, another employee, but that did not happen. Hence, Betty feels that Tony reneged on a promise. Furthermore, Betty stressed that Tony bought her drinks, attempted to buy her inappropriate clothing, told her he thought of her in bed, and even revealed once that his penis was so big - he hurt his wife. Betty states that she remains at the bank because she is a single mother with few options.

Jane stated that rumors have harmed her reputation. Tony flirted to such an extent that he made his favoritism obvious; making her co-workers hostile. Tony even called Jane on her fiancé's cell phone - resulting in her fiancé being charged hundreds of dollars. And Tony openly relayed his fantasy of going home together and kissing. Shortly before she first began working with Tony, Jane told Randy, a higher- level bank officer, she did not want to travel alone with Tony. Randy replied that he was aware of Tony's Margarita lunches with Betty and Carol. Randy knew that Tony had been warned about consuming alcohol at lunches with Betty and Jane and had not heard further.

Betty and Jane claim that they were subjected to unwelcome comments, forced business or social contact with Tony. Tony's defamatory remarks about Jane concerned "coming on to him" and "baring her breasts to him" as well as, Betty sitting on his desk and "spreading her legs". Though no inappropriate touching or sexual activity ever occurred, Betty and Jane believe that the bank should have been aware of their unique circumstance and did not intervene. With attorneys present, Randy stated that Betty and Jane could experience "bumpy ride" if they pursued legal action. Betty and Jane are now suing the bank; neither Betty nor Jane lost wages; both are in their mid-thirties; and both claim damages including punitive for emotional distress and defamation. Jane says that she now has to resort to alcohol because of her emotional distress.

The bank reports that no complaint was filed until September of 2000 and Betty did not complain until the investigation began. Even then, both Betty and Jane requested that no action be taken against Tony. However, the bank investigated and Tony resigned. Likewise, the bank had an anti-harassment policy and reporting process in place of which Betty and Jane, a manager herself, were aware. Also, the bank finds it curious that both Betty and Jane accepted gifts from Tony. Jane continued to wear jewelry that she received from Tony because "it was a nice piece of jewelry." In fact, Jane told peers that Tony was her "friend" and the "architect" of her career. From co-workers, conversations suggested that Betty and Jane felt sorry and pity for Tony because of his appearance and because of his wife's grave illness. Both Betty and Jane exchanged holiday and birthday cards, gifts with Tony. In sum, the bank is unsure of the nature or extent of the relationship among Betty, Jane and Tony. However, the bank believes that it acted appropriately and at the right time.


1. Do you believe banking officials knew about the behavior Betty and Jane considered sexual harassment?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

2. Do you believe that going to lunch in public places, telephone calls on company cell phones, occasional social contact, frequent business meetings, and a failure to dispel rumors about a possible affair, in the total absence of inappropriate touching, sexual activity, pornography or foul language, creates a hostile work environment?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

3. Do you believe that Betty and Jane welcomed Tony's attention?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

4. Do you believe that the bank is responsible for how employees treated Betty after Tony resigned?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

5. Do you believe that the bank is responsible for the behavior Betty and Jane considered sexual harassment if neither of them complained?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

6. Do you believe Betty was harmed when her job location changed following Tony's resignation - even though her attorney agreed to the change, with no pay reduction or new duties?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely

7. Who do you think is most responsible for this current situation?
  • Bank
  • Bank & Tony
  • Tony
  • Betty
  • Betty & Jane
  • Jane
  • Randy
  • Cliff
  • Carol
  • Other_____________

8. If you heard this case as a jury member, to what extent would you find the bank negligent?
  • 0%
  • 25%
  • 50%
  • 75%
  • 100%
  • other ___________

9. Would you award financial compensation to Betty?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely
If so, how much _______________

10. Would you award financial compensation to Jane?
No way     I don't think so     Maybe     I think so     Absolutely
If so, how much _______________

Do you have any comments?

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