It’s a tactic long used by defendants in both civil and criminal cases. From charges of rape to sexual harassment, men take the stand and point the finger at their female victims. Claiming that they “asked for it,” or that they “wanted it,” such men have often found sympathetic audiences in judges and juries.
In three recent and sensational examples (one in Iowa, one in Minnesota, and one in Arizona), Defendants’ attempts to use the “blame her defense” have yielded strikingly different results. While the cases are very different, both legally and factually, they serve as fascinating examples of a kind of defense that, despite such protections as Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, female victims must continue to grapple with.
Madia Law, representing a woman who worked at a Twin Cities technology company, has initiated a sex discrimination lawsuit against the company pursuant to the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Just prior to the Plaintiff’s hire, the company (which has been in business for decades) employed dozens of men and not a single woman.
In Fall 2012, the Plaintiff commenced employment as a department manager. Around the same time, the Defendant hired two other women. During her interview, a senior-level executive told the Plaintiff that although he was willing to hire her, the company had bad past experiences with women and “doesn’t like to hire” them. Shortly after starting, the Plaintiff was told that she would have to “prove” herself by, “doing better than any man” if she wanted to keep her job; she was also repeatedly told that she was, “at a disadvantage” because she was a woman. [click to continue…]
As published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab observed that from 1979-2006, plaintiffs bringing employment law matters (discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) in federal court won only 15% of the time. When paired with the observation that plaintiffs in non job-related matters won 51% of the time, that 15% figure is stunning. Questions as to why there is such an imbalance in employment law compared to other areas of law have been the focus of many journalists, lawyers and academics. But for attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, there is one key factor worth focusing on: properly preparing a case to survive motions for dismissal, particularly summary judgement motions.
Sanders v. Lee County School District, No. 10-3240 (8th Cir. 2012). An Arkansas jury found in favor of plaintiff Sharon Sanders on her Title VII claims of race discrimination and constructive discharge. The jury awarded $10,000 in compensatory damages for race discrimination, $60,825 in back and front pay damages for her constructive discharge, and $8,000 in punitive damages. After the verdict, the district court judge granted the School District’s motion under Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to set aside the jury’s verdicts on constructive discharge and punitive damages. Sanders appealed the district court’s vacation of the jury’s verdicts to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals – the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and reinstated the jury’s findings.
For nearly three years, Sean Lathrop was a star of the St. Cloud Police Department. Known as the “Golden Boy,” Officer Lathrop earned superlative performance evaluations, garnered high recommendations from community members, and quickly advanced to positions of responsibility.
Officer Lathrop’s ascent within the Department came to an abrupt end on May 12, 2009, when he disclosed his sexual orientation and requested to serve as an openly gay officer at the Minneapolis Gay Pride Parade. Within six months of that date, the Department disciplined Officer Lathrop five times, subjected him to three internal investigations, removed him from multiple positions of responsibility, placed him on a performance improvement plan, and awarded him the lowest possible marks on his performance evaluation. Officer Lathrop ultimately resigned from his position.
“Sam” worked as a salesman for several years at the same company. On occasion, he heard his supervisor and colleagues use anti-Semitic slurs in the workplace. Sam sent a very polite email stating that he had family members who died in the Holocaust and would like it if the comments stopped. All of a sudden, Sam’s employer began targeting him at work. He was disciplined six times within the next eight weeks, even though he had not been disciplined a single time over six years of employment before his complaint. Ultimately, Sam’s employer fired him.
The law firm of Madia Law LLC is located in Minneapolis, MN and represents employees throughout the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, including: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Edina, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Eagan, Woodbury, White Bear Lake, Richfield, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Vadnais Heights, Blaine, St. Cloud, Lakeville, Shakopee, Prior Lake, Burnsville, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Carver County, Washington County, Dakota County, Scott County, and Stearns County.