Can Lunch Invitations Be Considered Sexual Harassment?
The Texas Supreme Court recently reversed a jury decision awarding $1 million to a San Antonio woman who claimed to have suffered workplace retaliation. The woman, an employee with the San Antonio Water System, heard frequently from colleagues that the newly-hired vice president was making them uncomfortable by repeatedly asking two female employees to lunch with him. The plaintiff in the case counseled the vice president to stop him from asking the women out, stating that the action could be construed as inappropriate.
Two years later, the woman was assigned to a position subordinate to the vice president. Shortly after, her position was eliminated. The woman believed she had been terminated because she had counseled her boss two years prior.
A jury found that the plaintiff had suffered workplace retaliation and awarded her a substantial amount in damages. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed the decision, concluding that the lunch invitations were not acts of sexual harassment under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.
What Should You Take from This Case as an Employee?
For a statutory sexual harassment claim to hold any water, it is not enough to prove that you found an act of alleged harassment offensive. Harassment is only actionable when it is so severe or pervasive that it changes the conditions of a worker’s employment and creates an abusive environment. Isolated incidents will typically go nowhere in a discrimination case unless they are extremely serious.
If you have suffered sexual harassment at work, you should speak with an employment law attorney. A legal professional can help determine if the harassment you suffered is severe or pervasive enough to warrant a lawsuit.
Atkerson Law – Dallas Employment Law Attorney