As the Employment Law Attorneys at the Spitz Law Firm know, sometimes the same bad acts – such as gender discrimination– can lead to multiple legal claims under the law. As the saying goes, there is more than one way to sue someone. Thus, what at first may seem like a simple claim for gender discrimination can evolve into a multi-count lawsuit, depending on the facts.
In the context of government employees, the United States Constitution can provide additional protections beyond those afforded to employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The case of Henley v. Brown is a good example of this. Henley was a female police cadet in the Kansas City Police Academy, where she experienced sexual harassment. In her complaint, Henley alleged that her male trainers (1) made her jump over a crack in a gym mat repeatedly while he stared at her breast, (2) physically assaulted her when she “failed” certain physical test, despite outperforming male cadets, (3) entered the locker room when she was naked in the shower, and (4) told her that her large breast made her better suited to be “a rich man’s wife…than a police officer.” Henley was later discharged from the training program.
Unsurprisingly, Henley sued the Kansas City Police Department for sexual harassment. Rather than alleging that the Police Department had violated Title VII, Henley’s complaint alleged that the Police Department had violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. However, the district court nonetheless dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Henley had failed to exhaust other remedies before filing the case- that is, she had failed to file a claim under Title VII, and had failed to meet its requirement that she first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before suing in court.
The Court of Appeals did not agree with the lower court. Finding that the United States Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, might be an alternative basis for certain claims that might also have been raised under Title VII, the Court reinstated Henley’s case. The Court further held that the lower court erred in construing Title VII as being the sole remedy for employment discrimination cases, as Title VII’s “exclusivity” over such claims “ceases when the employer’s conduct also amounts to a violation of a right secured by the Constitution.” Because Henley had alleged violations of her right to equal protection under the United States Constitution and not just her civil rights, the district court had her Constitutional claims before dismissing her case.
If you feel that you are being sexually harassed or are working in a sexually charged or hostile working environment, you should not wait to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with a sexual harassment lawyer/hostile work environment attorney to find out what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them. Sexual harrassment is a form of gender discrimination, and employers should be held accountable if they discriminate against female workers in any fashion – but particularly for sexual harrassment.
The materials available at this gender discrimination and employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It is best contact an Ohio sexual harassment attorney/hostile work environment lawyer to obtain advice with respect to sexual harassment/hostile work environment questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm or any individual attorney.