Thursday, August 03, 2006

Maryland District Court Dismisses Sexual Harassment Claim But Allows Retaliation Claim to Proceed

Carole Sraver's boss, Dr. Jeffrey Owen, allegedly made the following comments:

"Good morning/afternoon Carole, did you get laid last night?"

"How's the sex life?"

"You'll get a bonus when I get a blow job."

I have a present for you that is "about six inched long with a gold tip . . . "

"Your boobs are bigger than my wife's."

"I am on a liquid diet to make my dick look bigger."

Sraver complained about her Owens's comments, but continued to perform her job. In fact, she prospered earning raises and bonuses.

Shortly after Sraver complained about one of her Owens's comments, her employer, Surgical Monitoring Services (SMS) terminated her employment. The company gave no explanation for its decision to terminate Sraver at the time it took the action. It later claimed that she made an administrative error that cost the company $5 million.

Sraver sued for: (1) sexual harassment; and (2) retaliatory termination. After discovery, SMS moved for summary judgment. The Court dismissed Sraver's sexual harassment claim finding that the alleged harassment was not severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive working environment. The Court noted that Dr. Owens never threatened Sraver, many of his comments were directed to several people, and that despite the alleged harassment, Sraver thrived at SMS.

The Court allowed Sraver's retaliation claim to proceed. The Court relied on SMS's failure to mention the alleged $5 million mistake at the time of Sraver's termination. Also, Sraver claimed that SMS's attorney and management directed her to take the actions the company now claimed were erroneous.

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