Monica Hague filed suit against the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2011. Judge Garcia of the Western District granted summary judgment against her in 2013. The Plaintiff appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The higher court reversed summary judgment regarding Ms. Hague’s retaliation claim and affirmed summary judgment regarding her sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims. See Fifth Circuit decision. Ms. Hague argued on appeal that when a supervisor (Dr. Manifold) read a sexually explicit article out loud during a meeting and gave a sexually explicit doll to a co-worker, that conduct amounted to sexual discrimination. But, Ms. Hague failed to check the block for sex discrimination on the EEOC charge form.
[Note this is a good reason why folks should consult with a lawyer before going to the EEOC. The EEOC workers mean well, but they just do not address every possible issue. Checking the right blocks is very important.]
Ms. Hague’s EEOC charge form did however, include general allegations of sexual harassment, so it did not matter for sexual harassment whether she checked the right block or not. The Fifth Circuit addressed that issue. It found that the actions of Dr. Manifold were not germane, since he was not a supervisor in the sense that he could not take any adverse action against Ms. Hague. So, his conduct did not amount to quid pro quo (something for something) harassment. Looking at her claim as a hostile work environment claim, the court found there were “only” two instances of conduct that could amount to sexual harassment. That means there was no evidence indicating his harassment affected a term or condition of Ms. Hague’s employment.
Regarding the retaliation claim, the court noted that the plaintiff did not address that claim specifically in her brief. But, the lower court did not address the retaliation claim either. The district court (i.e., Judge Garcia) did not address whether the plaintiff satisfied the prima facie requirements of a retaliation claim or not. Addressing the issue of pretext, the plaintiff pointed out that two other female employees who supported Ms. Hague’s complaint were also non-renewed. The plaintiff was not fired directly. Instead, her contract was non-renewed soon after she made her allegations. The court also noted that the deciding official offered two different reasons for the non-renewal. One reason cited budgetary concerns. The other reason was based on an alleged need for a higher pay grade for the position. So, his story changed.
The court did not mention this explicitly, but it also seemed concerned that the reasons offered for the non-renewal of the two other women was subjective (so-called “trust” issues) and not based on performance.
And, the supervisor did state that he no longer trusted Ms. Hague because she filed a grievance about him. His lawyer argued the supervisor meant a separate grievance, not related to any complaint about sex harassment. But, his testimony could be interpreted in various ways, said the court. And, Ms. Hague’s direct supervisor rebutted the higher level managers who claimed Plaintiff Hague’s performance was deficient. Her direct supervisor said her performance was good.
[It is always very helpful when a former supervisor testifies on behalf of the plaintiff.]
So, in the Spring of 2014, the case was then sent back to Judge Garcia for trial. In January, 2016, trial was held. The jury found in favor of Ms. Hague and awarded her $100,000 in lost wages and benefits and $15,000 in compensatory damages. This is typical of many juries. They are generally skeptical about emotional suffering type damages, but are more comfortable awarding lost ages type benefits.