Legal Brief: Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders
Pennsylvania State Police hired Nancy Drew Suders as a police communications operator. •
Suder’s supervisors were Sergeant Eric D. Easton, Patrol Corporal William D. Baker, and Corporal Eric B. Prendergast. •
Suders was subject to sexual harassment from all three of her supervisors during the term of her employment. •
Easton would mention the subject of people having sex with animals each time Suders entered the office. •
Easton told fellow supervisor, Prendergast in front of Suders that young girls should be taught how to give men oral sex. •
Easton would sit near Suders with spandex shorts and spread his legs apart. •
Baker made obscene gestures which involved grabbing his genitals and shouting out a vulgar comment inviting oral sex. He would make this gesture 5-10 times per night throughout Suder’s employment. •
Baker would also rub his rear end in front of Suder and remark, “I have a nice ass, don’t I?” •
Suder’s contacted Virginia Smith-Elliot, PSP’s equal opportunity officer, five months after being hired stating that she was being harassed at work and was afraid. •
Smith-Elliot’s response came across as insensitive and unhelpful to Suder’s. •
Two days later Suder’s resigned from the force.
She decided to sue PSP alleging that she had been subject to sexual harassment and constructively discharged and forced to resign. •
The U.S. District Court held that although evidence was sufficient to conclude that Suder’s supervisors engaged in sexual harassment, PSP was not vicariously liable for the supervisors’ conduct. •
The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for trial on the merits against PSP. PSP appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Issue: Can an employer be held vicariously liable when the sexual harassment conduct of its employees is so severe that the victim of the harassment resigns? Rule of Law: As per title VII of the civil rights of 1969, creating a hostile and abusive work...
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