Owen v. County of Franklin, Va.

Franklin County, Virginia is not entitled to summary judgment as to the Title VII retaliation claim of a county employee, which were related to her claims of assault and battery against her supervisor.

The county argues that merely rejecting the supervisor’s sexual advances and asking him to stop his harassment did not constitute oppositional activity to support a retaliation claim. This court disagrees. This conclusion comports with the plain language of the opposition clause of Title VII and broad interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court and 4th Circuit of what constitutes oppositional conduct.

Here, a reasonable jury could easily find that the plaintiff’s statements to her supervisor regarding his offensive behavior constituted protected activity. This is not a case in which an employee merely rejected unwanted advances on one occasion. Instead, the plaintiff’s supervisor subjected her to increasingly inappropriate sexual comments and physical contact, which she repeatedly told him to stop. The plaintiff also complained to her supervisor about another coworker’s harassing behavior, and she escalated the supervisor’s harassment before a final decision was made to termination her employment.

Motion for summary judgment denied.

Owen v. County of Franklin, Va., No. 7:17cv205, Mar. 6, 2019. WDVA at Roanoke (Conrad).

Categories: Opinions, U.S. District Court - Western District of Virginia

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