Eleventh Circuit Reverses Lower Court Ruling on Sexual Harassment Claim, Affirms Lower Court Judgment on Retaliation Claim
In Furcron v. Mail Centers Plus, LLC, 2016 WL 7321211 (11th Cir., December 16, 2016), the employer provided administrative support for large companies; and in accordance with its business, Furcron was assigned to perform the duties of a mail clerk in Coca-Cola’s Atlanta office. In November of 2012, the alleged perpetrator of the harassment, Seligman, who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, was transferred to work in the same office. Seligman proceeded to make offensive sexual gestures toward Furcron; he repeatedly stared at her and he invaded her personal space, most notably by looking down her shirt. When the harassment was in its early stages,Furcron took a photograph of Seligman, in the act of making offensive gestures of a sexual nature. Thereafter, Furcron made complaints about Seligman’s conduct to her supervisors, who in turn, reported the existence of these instances of harassment to the employer’s Manager of Business Operations.
After a holding a meeting with the Manager of Business Operations, management decided to initially suspend Furcron for showing the photograph to co-workers in the workplace. Furcron was terminated for showing the photograph to co-workers in the work place without Seligman’s permission. However, the Eleventh Circuit held that the nature and severity of the harassing conduct in the work place, was sufficient to constitute sexual harassment. In addition, the Court held that there was an insufficient showing of pretext on the retaliation claim, since the employer had a policy of prohibiting employees from exhibiting photographs of sexually offensive conduct; and hence, Furcron could not pursue her claim of retaliation below in the district court.
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