Zetwick v. County of Yolo

In order to reach a jury, plaintiff did not need to introduce evidence that unwelcome sexual advances from plaintiff’s supervisor are both severe and pervasive; since the statute is disjunctive, she only needed to proffer evidence of one of these aspects.  Summary judgment for employer is reversed in this sex discrimination/hostile work environment case.  A sheriff’s deputy alleged that over the course of 12 years, her supervisor subjected her to over 100 unwelcome hugs and at least one especially unwelcome kiss.  He didn’t treat male deputies that way.  That was enough evidence to allow a jury to decide that the conduct was sufficient severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of plaintiff’s employment and create an abusive working environment.  The district court erred in thinking that the unwelcome sexual advances had to be both severe and pervasive; the legal standard is alternative not conjunctive.  Also, the district court erred in thinking that hugs and kisses were socially acceptable behavior which could not, as a matter of law, create a hostile work environment.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Bennett, J.. sitting by designation); February 23, 2017; 2017 WL 710476

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