PBGC Auditor Loses Harassment Claim

November 8, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer got right to the point in her ruling on a sexual harassment complaint by an auditor at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) - the nation's private sector pension insurer.

In explaining why she was throwing out plaintiff Ruby Redd’s suit against the PBGC, Collyer began by asserting: “Can an employer be held liable for sexual harassment when a plaintiff was offended by some mangers’ comments but did not complain for months, and when she did complain the employer investigated quickly and the alleged harassment ceased?”

Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, responded to her own inquiry: “The answer is no.”

The court ruled that Redd, formerly Ruby Taylor, had not proven she had to suffer a hostile work environment or that the agency had retaliated against her after she complained about racial and gender workplace discrimination. Redd is an African American.  

According to Collyer’s ruling, the harassment Redd complained about included:

  • When she was asked during a summer park outing whether her hair was “red all over,”
  • An agency official complimenting her on her appearance,
  • A third official calling her “sweetie,”
  • A fourth official telling her in 2001 that he wanted to be her “close friend,” that he would make sure she received an outstanding evaluation, that she did not love her fiancé, and that he could beat up her fiancé. Redd also accused him of flirting and bragging about his attractiveness to women.
  • An agency official’s April 2002 comments accusing Taylor of flaunting her bare arms when she took off her jacket; his insisting that she turn around to talk to him; following her around the copy room calling her “baby” and insisting that she turn around; and comments that she should appreciate the outstanding evaluation she received.

Collyer concluded: “While Ms. Taylor may have been genuinely offended at some of the comments made to her, these are the type of offhand comments and isolated incidents that simply do not amount to a discriminatory change in the terms and conditions of employment. Title VII (prohibiting workplace discrimination based on, among other things, a worker’s gender) is not a civility code. “

The ruling is  here .