Rejection Of Sexual Advances May Be Basis Of Claim For Retaliation

Federal employment laws prohibit many forms of discrimination, including religious, sex and race discrimination. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against workers who complain about discrimination. A recent case looked at what actions could support a claim for retaliation under Title VII.

In Hilton v. Shin, a woman – Glynese Hilton – was fired after she sued for retaliation under Title VII. Her claims were based on allegations that she was subjected to sexual harassment by the president of the company she worked for. Hilton’s actions included repeatedly rejecting Yoon S. Shin’s sexually obnoxious advances.

Here, shortly after Hilton began working Shin allegedly started pressuring her for sex. He told her that he wanted to have lunch with her at her house, an invitation she declined, and approached her in the company garage to ask for a kiss and a hug. When he began touching her at work, she told him that he was making her uncomfortable.

According to Hilton, Shin sent her emails asking her to meet with him in his office on Valentine’s Day. When she said no, he phoned her expressing anger and sent her an angry email. After that, Hilton said, Shin became “cold, distant, and uncommunicative,” and he gave her an annual performance review that she believed was “undeservedly unfavorable.” A few months later, Hilton was fired.

The lower court determined that Hilton could not maintain a claim for retaliation based on her “simply spurning” the sexual advances.

However, the District Court for the District of Maryland disagreed finding that “refusing” sexual advances may constitute “opposition to” harassment, and be enough to support an allegation of retaliation.

The court noted that to establish a case retaliation for under Title VII, Hilton must show that she engaged in protected activity and that she had a reasonable and good faith belief that the conduct she opposed constituted unlawful discrimination under Title VII. Here, the court determined that the sum of the actions constituted enough to support a claim for retaliation, but cautioned that a “faint refusal to submit” to advances may not be enough to support of claim.

For more information, or if you believe you have been subjected to workplace discrimination or retaliation, please contact the top Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.