This Ninth Circuit case addressed a typical “good ol’ boy” attitude at work: a male co-worker accused of anything – here rape of the Plaintiff co-worker – is treated with empathy and kindness. The female co-worker, who made this very serious accusation, is simply not treated as well: no support; no kindness; no concern.
In Fuller v. Idaho Department of Corrections (9th Cir. 2017) 865 F.3d 154, the Ninth Circuit stressed the importance of how this imbalance impacted the employee/rape victim and how a reasonable jury could conclude that the employer’s conduct “effectively condoned the rapist” and thus, created a hostile work environment for the victim. In doing so, the Ninth Circuit overturned the lower court’s summary judgment in favor of the employer.
When the employer learned that a male employee was being investigated by the sheriff for the rape of an employee, it put the co-worker on a paid administrative leave, and did not warn any of its employees. (Yes, we understand the difficult balancing test between safety and privacy). The employer, Department of Corrections, not only paid the co-worker while on leave but gratuitously noted that it “looked forward to…[his]…prompt return to work.” (Yes, this case was before the #MeToo movement.) Ms. Fuller, who had a relationship with the co-worker, disclosed the relationship to her employer. The employer did nothing to warn or protect her, and she was subsequently raped by this same co-worker.