Sexual Harassment Complaint Dismissal Recommended; Invitations Did Not Amount to “Unwelcome” Conduct Comprising “Sexual Advances or Favors”

In Wolfe v. Carter’s, Inc., 19-cv-560, 2021 WL 3562911 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 11, 2021), the court recommended the dismissal of plaintiff’s “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment” sexual harassment claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This case is instructive regarding, for example, the circumstances under which “requests for dates” etc. might give rise to a claim of sexual harassment.

As to plaintiff’s “quid pro quo” sexual harassment claim, the court explained:

Plaintiff alleges that Lamek’s [plaintiff’s manager] alleged “unwelcome” conduct consisted of Lamek asking plaintiff to grab a bite to eat, go out for drinks, and wishing that plaintiff could be at a new store opening so that they could get drinks and plaintiff could stay at the same hotel as him. Plaintiff specifically testified that Lamek’s text messages and communications made her “uncomfortable.” Plaintiff’s mere uncomfortableness, however, stemming from Lamek’s alleged requests to grab drinks or get something to eat does not provide any evidence of “unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.” …

Moreover, even considering the factual allegations in plaintiff’s post-deposition affidavit that Lamek asked plaintiff for her “opinions on suits he was considering purchasing” and increasing the frequency that Lamek allegedly asked plaintiff out for drinks or to grab a bite to eat from “sometime[s]” to “several times a month”, does not establish that plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment. Accordingly, there exists no genuine dispute of material fact that Lamek’s conduct and communications toward plaintiff did not rise to the level sufficient to satisfy the second element of a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, “unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.”

Moreover, plaintiff’s quid pro quo claim also fails on the basis that there exists no evidence that such alleged advances by Lamek were made as an “express or implied condition for receiving job benefits,” nor (2) “refusing to submit resulted in a tangible job detriment.”  Plaintiff does not allege that Lamek’s communications, such as grabbing a bite to eat or drink, were conditioned upon plaintiff receiving any job benefit. Nor is there any evidence in the record that demonstrates as much.

[Citations omitted.]

Based on this, the court concluded by recommending that defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted since there was “no genuine issue of material fact that plaintiff was not subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.”

The court contrasted the facts of this case to those of another case, Heimberger v. Pritzker, No. 2:12-cv-1064, 2014 WL 1050341 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 17, 2014), in which the court found that plaintiff alleged “sufficient conduct to satisfy the second element of her quid pro quo sexual harassment claim where the defendant gave the plaintiff “unwanted personal attention” and “unwanted touching”; repeatedly asked the plaintiff to go on dates; was told by the defendant that she was “well put together” and “easy on the eyes”; made “multiple comments of a sexual nature”; forced her to ride with the defendant on personal errands; was personally touched against her will; and “asked her out on dates and for a commitment to a relationship”).

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