Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
In a ruling that’s bound to anger women’s rights advocates, a court in California threw out sexual harassment claims by two female corrections employees who charged that they had been subjected to a hostile work environment. They claimed that promotions at their workplace were based on sexual favors. (Their boss promoted other female employees with whom he had sexual relations.) Sacramento’s Third District Court of Appeals unanimously held that the charges did not amount to sexual harassment. “Plaintiffs were not complaining about sexual harassment, but unfairness,” wrote Justice Harry Hull, Jr. “This is not protected activity under the [state's Fair Employment and Housing Act].” Hull added that the only way to establish a sexual harassment claim was to “prove a causal connection between the gender of the individual claiming discrimination and the resultant preference or disparity.” The court’s 38-page ruling shocked San Francisco lawyer Barbara Lawless, who represented plaintiffs Frances Mackey and Edna Miller. “That is so outrageous,” says Lawless. “We certainly are going to consider appealing this to the Supreme Court.” Mackey and Miller, both former employees of the Valley State Prison for Women at Chowchilla, sued the state’s Department of Corrections for sexual harassment after then-warden Lewis Kuykendall engaged in affairs with female underlings. According to the appeals court ruling, the women in the affairs got promotions that placed them in supervisory roles over Miller and Mackey; the women also “boasted” about their power over Kuykendall. Miller and Mackey claimed they were constantly harassed and subjected to intimidation; they also claimed that most of their decisions were overturned by the women who held Kuykendall’s favor. Sacramento County superior court judge Joe Gray threw out their complaint, ruling that the women were not sexually harassed under the state’s employment discrimination rules. The appeals court agreed. “Neither Miller nor Mackey complained that the affairs and related conduct created an atmosphere whereby they were being judged on their sexuality, rather than on merit,” Justice Hull wrote. “Neither woman claimed to have been propositioned by a supervisor, expressly or impliedly, or to have been the subject of unwanted sexual attention. . . . Rather, plaintiffs’ complaints and reports concerned the unfairness of promotions and other benefits given to paramours and the resulting mistreatment of them by those paramours.” The appeals court justices also said that while there was no evidence the warden had “flaunted” any of his relationships, there was evidence that his paramours had “bragged” about their influence over him. “However,” Hull wrote, “this is not flaunting of the sexual relationships, but flaunting of the power flowing from those relationships.” As for the plaintiffs, Lawless says Miller and Mackey no longer work for the Department of Corrections. “They had to get out,” she says. “The conditions were too intolerable.” Andrea Carlise, the president of California Women Lawyers, says the court ruling is wrong. “The message,” says Carlise, “[is] that job benefits are tied to acquiescence [to] sexual advances.” This article originally appeared in The Recorder, a sibling publication of Corporate Counsel and a part of American Lawyer Media.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.