The Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an employer automatically takes on liability if a supervisor bases employment decisions on whether the worker agrees to have sex.
In an opinion written by Senior Circuit Judge Wilfred Feinberg, the appeals court overturned a magistrate judge’s decision finding no liability for MetLife and sent the case back to the trial court for more hearings.
Plaintiff Min Jin filed suit claiming that her supervisor, Gregory Morabito, subjected her to crude remarks and unwanted sexual advances, all the while threatening to fire her if she did not submit.
She also alleged that Morabito punished her for reporting the harassment by denying her automatic paycheck deposit privileges and withholding her paychecks if she continued to refuse to attend the Thursday evening meetings where she was often molested.
US Magistrate Judge Douglas Eaton overruled Jin’s objections to proposed jury instructions when the case went to trial. Jin’s lawyer had argued that the jury should be able to consider, as a “tangible employment action” the practical result of Morabito’s ongoing harassment: that she was afraid to come to work and changed her schedule to avoid being alone with him.
The jury went on to find that Jin was subjected to sexual harassment and that her work environment was hostile or abusive. But the jury also found that Morabito’s actions did not result in a “tangible adverse action impacting on the terms and conditions of her employment.”
It also found that MetLife exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and that Jin failed to take advantage of preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the company.
Eaton ultimately entered a no liability judgment for the company.
The case is Jin v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 01-7013.