Court of Appeals overturns lower court; grants summary disposition of employee's retaliation claim because she didn't claim improper comments were "illegal."
In Hensley v. Botsford Gen. Hospital, the trial judge denied the defendant's request for summary disposition of the plaintiff's gender discrimination and hostile work environment claim. Hensley argued that she was subjected to illegal retaliation after complaining to her doctor-supervisor about inappropriate and offensive comments. The trial judge rejected summary disposition, holding that she had raised a genuine material question of fact regarding retaliation. The Hospital appealed.
The Court of Appeals reversed and granted the Hospital summary judgment. It held that although the plaintiff objected to the improper comments, "she never expressed that she felt the comments were illegal or amounted to sexual harassment..." Her "mere verbal objections" were 'insufficient to convey that she was opposing a violation" of the civil rights act. Her e-mail documenting and complaining about "a lot of unacceptable/inappropriate behavior that goes on" wasn't sufficient to "convey to an objective employer" that she was complaining about a Civil Rights Act violation. She needed to consult an attorney, apparently, to cite the terms of the statute, in order to invoke the law's protection. Disgusting.