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Sex harassment and hostile work environment claims must go to jury

Catherine Zadrzynski sued Wyndgate Country Club when it refused to hire her back as a server for the 2007 season.  She claimed that she was not "re-hired" because she had complained, during the 2006 season, about pervasive and inappropriate comments by her immediate supervisor addressing female members' breasts, buttocks and legs. Zadrzynski's claim was dismissed by the trial court on the ground that the comments were not made about Zadrzynski and were not "sexual" in nature.   The Court of Appeals reversed this holding, pointing to the inherent nature of the offensive remarks and the fact that the supervisor made them primarily in the presence of women employees.  A jury could well find that the remarks were not merely "gender-based," but were impliedly sexual in nature. 

The lower court had also held that the supervisor's remarks did not create a hostile work environment.  The Court of Appeals noted that "the purpose of the Civil Rights Act is to combat serious dem eaning and degrading conduct based on sex in the work place..."  The Court explained that given the evidence, a reasonable trier-of-fact could well conclude that the remarks were frequent and recurring and rose to a level such that  "a reasonable employer would have been aware of the substantial probability that sexual harassment was occurring."

With regard to Zadrzynski' s firing, the Court pointed to two circumstantial facts which were sufficient to support a claim of retaliation.  It stressed the fact that she was not re-hired for the season that would have started within a few months of her complaints; and the fact that the only other female server who complained about the behavior was also not re-hired for that season.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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