Sunday, April 16, 2006

On sexual harassment and the UNC soccer team

In Jennings v. University of North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by District Judge Dever, joined by Judge Karen Williams with Judge Michael dissenting in part, affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in a case where a female soccer player at the University of North Carolina brought claims under Title IX and Section 1983 and North Carolina state law claiming that she was subjected to a hostile sexual environment on the soccer team.

Judge Dever wrote: "Laws prohibiting sexual harassment are designed to protect people at work and at school from the kind of extreme conduct that can make work or school hellish because of the person’s sex. The laws, however, are not designed to purge or punish all vulgarity at work or in universities. Whether conduct constitutes actionable sexual harassment cannot be divorced from the context in which the alleged harassment arose. Thus, a court evaluating a sexual harassment claim must examine the constellation of surrounding circumstances, expectations, and relationships."

Judge Michael agreed on the law but disagreed on the facts.

The case was filed in 1998, summary judgment granted in 2004.

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