Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Sex Harassment Case

The US Supreme Court today agreed to hear a sexual harassment case involving the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The plaintiff, Sheila White, was hired as a forklift operator in Memphis, Tennessee for the railroad company in 1997. White was the only woman working at the railroad yard, and she alleged that she was being sexually harassed by the foreman and co-workers. When she complained to the foreman’s supervisor, she was reassigned to a much physically harder job at the railyard, according to the Associated Press. White then filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging sexual discrimination and retaliation. Two days after the EEOC mailed the charges to White’s supervisor, she was suspended without pay for insubordination.

A jury agreed with White’s retaliation claim, and awarded her $43,500, but rejected her other claims, according to the Legal Intelligencer. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the jury’s decision and decided against White on all counts, the Intelligencer reports.

At issue before the Supreme Court is whether White’s reassignment constituted a “materially adverse” employment action and what evidence is needed for a jury to award punitive damages, according to the Associated Press.


Associated Press 12/5/05; Sixth Circuit opinion 11/13/2002; Legal Intelligencer 11/2002

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