Constructive Discharge Claim Rejected for Employee Who Failed to Report Harassment

March 17, 2008 ( - The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling that an employer that acted on the only complaints it received about harassment was not guilty of creating a hostile work environment and constructive discharge.

In its opinion, the appellate court noted that Wickes Furniture Company, Inc. acted in a timely fashion on salesperson Debra Anda’s complaints of harassment by a fellow salesperson, thereby ensuring a work environment free of hostility for Anda. The court also rejected Anda’s complaint of constructive discharge, pointing out that Wickes asked Anda not to quit when she gave notice, and that Anda had not informed her employer of other incidents of harassment first presented to the court, denying Wickes the opportunity to remedy any intolerable work conditions.

During her employment at Wickes, Anda complained of threats and sexually inappropriate comments by a fellow salesperson. Wickes issued a verbal reprimand to the coworker and also initiated an investigation of the alleged harassment.

When Anda gave her two weeks notice to her employer, she was asked to reconsider and told the investigation was ongoing. Anda later reported another threat made to her by the coworker and Wickes fired him.

Anda brought suit against Wickes, alleging sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment and constructive discharge. During her depositions she alleged many sexually harassing actions and comments by her manager and other coworkers that she did not complain to Wickes about during her employment.

Anda argued that her employer should have known about the harassment, for one, because some of the incidents were committed by her manager. She also argued that Wickes discouraged complaints because it had a policy requiring two witnesses to any incident, but she failed to prove such a policy existed. The appellate court rejected both arguments, and affirmed summary judgment for Wickes.

The opinion in Anda v. Wickes Furniture Company, Inc. can be viewed here .