The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled recently that evidence showing that a male co-worker started and circulated a rumor about a female employee allegedly engaging in a sexual relationship with her manager to obtain a promotion was enough to allow her to proceed with her claim of sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court also upheld the plaintiff’s retaliation claim, finding that her filing of an internal complaint of sexual harassment was based on an objectively reasonable belief that she was being sexually harassed. 

The ruling by the appeals court in Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc. reverses a federal trial court decision finding that the rumor that the plaintiff was sleeping with her boss was not based on her sex, but rather, on false allegations involving her conduct. The Fourth Circuit concluded instead, however, that the rumor and its circulation could be based on plaintiff’s sex, because it inferred a negative sex stereotype that generally women – and not men – “use sex to achieve success.” 

A copy of the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in Parker is available here.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.