Sexual Harassment Discharge

Thomas Griffin was terminated on August 15, 2014, by the governing board of a non- profit agency of the federal government for violation of the agency’s sexual harassment policy. Prior to Griffin’s termination he was a senior maintenance employee with an above-average work record who had worked for the agency for eleven years. He had been a widower since 1992 and was described by his co-working in the district’s Advanced Learning Program. She was twenty-eight years old and married, and had worked for AGENCY for six years. At the time of the incidents, Griffin and Pope both worked at the agency, where their relationship was described as “cooperative.” The following sequence of events were reported separately by Griffin and Pope during the district’s investigation of this sexual harassment case.

Pope reported that her relationship with Griffin began to change during the last month of the 2013-2014 fiscal year. She believed that Griffin was paying her more attention and that his
behavior was “out of the ordinary’ and “sometimes weird.” He began spending more time in her department talking with other employees and with her. At the time she didn’t say anything to Griffin because “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings since he is a nice, lonely, older man.” However, on May 25, when Griffin told Pope that he was “very fond” of her and that she had “very beautiful eyes,” she replied, “Remember, Thomas, we’re just friends.” For the remainder of the year there was little contact between them; however, when they did see each other, Griffin seemed “overly friendly” to her.

 

June 7, 2014. On the first day upon her return from vacation, Pope returned to her office to find a dozen roses and a card from Griffin. The card read, “Please forgive me for thinking you could like me. I played the big fool. Yours always, P.L.” Later in the day Griffin asked Pope to lunch. She replied, “It’s been a long time since anyone sent me roses, but I can’t go to lunch. We need to remain just friends.” Pope told another employee that she was uncomfortable about receiving the roses and card and that Griffin wouldn’t leave her alone. She expressed concern that Griffin might get “more romantic” with her.

June 8, 2014. Pope arrived at work to find another card from Griffin. Inside was a handwritten note that read, “I hope you can someday return my affections for you. I need you so much.” Later in the day Griffin again asked her to lunch and she declined saying, “I’m a happily married woman.” At the close of one work day, when Pope went to her car, Griffin suddenly appeared. He asked to explain himself but Pope became agitated and shouted, “I have to leave right now.” Griffin reached inside the car, supposedly to pat her shoulder, but touched her head instead. She believed he meant to stroke her hair. He stated that he was only trying to calm her down. She drove away, very upset.

June 9, 2014. Pope received another card and a lengthy letter from Griffin, stating that he was wrong in trying to develop a relationship with her and he hoped they could still remain friends. He wished her all happiness with her family and job.

June 11, 2014. Pope obtained from the Western Justice Court an injunction prohibiting sexual harassment by Griffin. Shortly thereafter Griffin appealed the injunction. A notice was mailed to Pope giving the dates of the appeal hearing. The notice stated in part, “If you fail to appear, the injunction may be vacated and the petition dismissed.” Pope failed to appear at the hearing and the injunction was set aside. Additionally, on June 11 she had filed with the district’s EEOC officer a sexual harassment complaint against Griffin. After the investigation the district concluded that Griffin’s actions created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive employment environment for Pope. The investigative report recommended dismissal based upon the grievous conduct of Griffin and the initial injunction granted by the Justice Court.

QUESTIONS

  1. Assess the conduct of Thomas Griffin against the EEOC’s definition of sexual harassment.
  2. Should the intent or motive behind Griffin’s conduct be considered when deciding sexual harassment activities? Explain.
  3. If you were the district’s EEOC officer, what would you conclude? Would you take any disciplinary action? If yes, what would it consist of?

ORDER UNIQUE ANSWER NOW