High Court Okays Sex Bias Suit; James Brown Walks

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that employees can file sexual harassment suits against their former employers after leaving their jobs due to intolerable working conditions.

The 8-1 vote addressed the case of Nancy Drew Suders, a former dispatcher for the Pennsylvania State Police. Suders claimed she was forced to quit her job after her male bosses continuously subjected her to dirty jokes and obscene gestures, according to The Associated Press. She said her attempts to file complaints with an Equal Employment Opportunity officer were rebuffed.

The Court sent Suders’ case back to lower court for more hearings, but its decision is seen as an important step for sexual harassment cases as a whole. It further clarified a 1998 high court decision that established broad guidelines for employer liability when a supervisor engages in sexual harassment, according to Reuters.

In their ruling Monday, the justices said that an individual who flees an abusive work environment is protected by a 1964 civil rights law that also covers discrimination victims who are fired.

The Court’s decision, however, also included protection for employers by allowing them to argue that former employees did not make reasonable efforts to take advantage of the company’s systems for reporting sexual harassment.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and expressed the view that Nancy Drew Suders had experienced “harassment ratcheted up to the breaking point.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, the only justice to vote against the ruling, said employers should only be liable if they are proven to be negligent in permitting sexual harassment to occur, according to The Associated Press. He said the Court should have ended Suders’ lawsuit.

For more information:

OYEZ: U.S. Supreme Court Multimedia–
Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders:
http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1714/

Victorian Health Promotion Foundation–
The Health Costs of Violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence:
http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/default.asp?artid=683&tmid=407&level=3


Jeers

Soul singer James Brown received a fine but no jail time Monday after pleading guilty to criminal domestic violence directed at his wife.

The 71-year-old entertainer’s attorney wrote a letter to prosecutors saying Brown would forego a jury trial and forfeit his $1,087 bond, according to the New York Post. A conviction will go on his record.

Brown was arrested in January after police received a 911 hang-up call from his Beech Island, S.C., residence. He was charged with pushing his wife, Tommie Rae Brown, 33, and threatening her with a wrought-iron chair. At the time he said he would fight the charge, according to The Associated Press.

The conviction will not affect a pardon Brown received in May 2003 from the South Carolina Probation, Parole and Pardon Services board for seven convictions over the past 10 years, mainly involving weapons. That pardon was granted despite the opposition of Brown’s home county prosecutor’s office, four police officers and the board’s own investigator, The Associated Press said.

Brown is set to embark on a European concert tour, where his wife will perform as a backup dancer, the New York Post reported.

Brown’s case wrapped up just one day before a groundbreaking study in Victoria, Australia, declared intimate partner violence to be the No. 1 cause of premature death and ill-health among Victorian women under the age of 45. Domestic violence accounted for 9 percent of the total disease burden on women in that age group, exceeding smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

The study, conducted by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, was the first in the world to study domestic violence using the “burden of disease” methodology established by the World Health Organization. The research showed that depression, chronic pain, anxiety and suicide attempts were direct health consequences for women exposed to violence, according to the foundation’s press release. Dr. Rob Moodie, the foundation’s chief executive officer, said that in addition to support for domestic violence victims, there needs to be more focus on addressing the root causes of abuse. “We need community education campaigns, improved economic opportunities for women and strategies to foster greater respect between men and women,” he said in the press release.

— Robin Hindery.


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