A young Alabama woman joined a small chiropractic practice as its receptionist. But she soon learned that the only staff physician had a very different idea from hers of what her duties should be. Having entreated her unsuccessfully for sexual favors, he took matters into his own hands one evening: When they were alone in the office, he turned off all the lights and assaulted her.
What happened. "Kramer" worked for Chiropractic Strategies Group (CSG) from July through November 2007. She was one of three employees in the Mobile office—two young women and a male doctor. Soon after she was hired, the doctor began asking her, usually with lewd text messages, to meet his sexual needs. If she did, he said, he would give her a better schedule. In one notable 2 and 1/2-hour period, he sent her 64 text messages. But it was early November before he pulled the turn-out-the-lights stunt.
Fortunately, the assault happened shortly after the third employee had gone home for the day—but she returned unexpectedly to retrieve her keys and heard Kramer screaming. The next morning, Kramer contacted CSG's corporate offices in Texas to report the doctor's misconduct. A clinic administrator told her the matter would be investigated, and she would let Kramer know the results. Kramer asked whether the doctor would continue to work in the office, and the administrator said yes. She also asked Kramer to forward the doctor's text messages and said she would let her know the results of the investigation.
However, Kramer later testified, the administrator called back later that day to say that it was uncertain if any action would be taken on her complaint. Then she asked if Kramer wanted to be sent her final paycheck. Kramer said yes—and sued CSG. Oddly, a federal district court judge ruled in CSG's favor, noting that the firm had an antiharassment policy that Kramer had not used. Kramer appealed to the 11th Circuit, which covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
What the court said. Appellate judges didn't agree with the district judge's ruling. The administrator told the courts that she could remember nothing about Kramer's complaint and offered no testimony that conflicted with Kramer's. Judges found that Kramer had grounds for both a sexual harassment and a retaliation claim, and they sent her case back to the district court for reconsideration. Kurtts v. CSG, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, No. 11-11546 (2012).
Point to remember: Judges felt that the administrator, when telling Kramer the doctor would not be removed from the office, should have offered Kramer a paid leave of absence during the investigation.