Sexual Harassment (Hostile Work Environment) Claim Dismissed; “Dirty Looks” Insufficient

In Clinard v. Washington Regional Medical Center, 5:20-CV-05188, 2021 WL 4776694 (W.D. Ark. 2021), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment, finding that the alleged harassment was not “severe or pervasive”, which is the standard under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Here, Clinard only reported two instances of sexual harassment to WRMC. However, she claims that after the 2019 report Dr. Soliman unnecessarily walked in front of her desk, entered the break room when she was alone, gave her dirty looks, and made negative statements about her to co-workers. Under Eighth Circuit precedent, these actions are not sufficiently severe or pervasive to meet the threshold of what would be considered a hostile work environment. See, e.g., Duncan v. Gen. Motors Corp., 300 F.3d 928, 931-35 (8th Cir. 2002) (plaintiff failed to show severe or pervasive sexual harassment based on five harassing incidents over a two-year period: a proposition for a relationship; unnecessary touching of the plaintiff’s hand, a request the plaintiff sketch a sexually objectionable planter; the posting of a “Man Hater’s Club” poster featuring the plaintiff; and a request the plaintiff “type the He-Men Women Haters beliefs”); LeGrand, 394 F.3d at 1100-02 (when a co-worker asked the plaintiff to watch pornographic movies with him, requested sexual favors, kissed him, “grabbed his butt,” reached for his genitals, and gripped his thigh, the conduct was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to rise to the level of a hostile work environment); Anderson v. Fam. Dollar Stores of Ark., Inc., 579 F.3d 858, 860-62 (8th Cir. 2009) (when the district manager told plaintiff she should be in bed with him with a Mai Tai, called her “baby doll” and “honey,” told her that how far she went in the company was up to him, cupped her chin, and rubbed her shoulders, this action was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment); Ottman v. City of Indep., 341 F.3d 751, 760 (8th Cir. 2003) (concluding the district court erred in finding a triable issue for the jury where the conduct consisted of belittling and sexist remarks on almost a daily basis); Alagna v. Smithville R–II Sch. Dist., 324 F.3d 975, 980 (8th Cir. 2003) (finding to be inappropriate but not actionable conduct that involved frequent calls to the plaintiff’s home, regular visits to her office, bestowing gifts, touching the plaintiff’s arm, and frequent expressions of “I love you”). But see Carter v. Chrysler Corp., 173 F.3d 693, 702 (8th Cir. 1999) (when, over the course of some two years, an employee suffered verbal abuse interlaced with sexual and racial epithets almost every other day, rude sexual gestures were frequently made towards her, sexual insults were written on the walls of the company restroom, acts of vandalism occurred in her work area, and a picture of a naked man, dead animals, threatening notes, foul-smelling materials, and debris were directed to her area, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment).

The court also held that plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim failed because defendant took “prompt and effective remedial action” upon being notified of the alleged harassment.

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