Clark County School Dist. v. Breeden
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532 U.S. 268 (2001)
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OCTOBER TERM, 2000
CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT v. BREEDEN
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 00-866. Decided April 23, 2001
At a meeting with respondent and a male employee to review job applicants' psychological evaluation reports, respondent's male supervisor read aloud a sexually explicit remark that one applicant had made to a co-worker, looked at respondent, and stated, "I don't know what that means." The other employee replied, "Well, I'll tell you later," and both men chuckled. Respondent complained about the comment to the offending supervisor and other officials of their employer, petitioner Clark County School District. Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she subsequently filed a 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-3(a) retaliation claim against petitioner, asserting that she was punished for these complaints and also for filing charges against petitioner with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for filing the present suit. The District Court granted petitioner summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.
Held: Respondent's claims are insufficient to withstand a summary judgment motion. No one could reasonably believe that the incident of which respondent complained violated Title VII. Sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII only if it is so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment. Faragher v. Boca Raton, 524 U. S. 775, 786. Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in employment terms and conditions. The actions of respondent's supervisor and co-worker are at worst an isolated incident that cannot remotely be considered "extremely serious." Regarding respondent's claim that she was punitively transferred for filing charges and the present suit, she failed to show the requisite causal connection between her protected activities and the transfer. Petitioner did not implement the transfer until 20 months after respondent filed her charges, and it was contemplating the transfer before it learned of her suit.
Certiorari granted; 232 F.3d 893, reversed.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 255, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-3(a), it is unlawful "for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees ... because [the employee] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by [Title VII], or because [the employee] has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under [Title VII]." In 1997, respondent filed a § 2000e-3(a) retaliation claim against petitioner Clark County School District. The claim as eventually amended alleged that petitioner had taken two separate adverse employment actions against her in response to two different protected activities in which she had engaged. The District Court granted summary judgment to petitioner, No. CV-S-97-365-DWH(RJJ) (D. Nev., Feb. 9, 1999), but a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed over the dissent of Judge Fernandez, No. 99-15522,2000 WL 991821 (July 19, 2000) (per curiam) (unpublished), judgt. order reported at 232 F.3d 893. We grant the writ of certiorari and reverse.
On October 21, 1994, respondent's male supervisor met with respondent and another male employee to review the psychological evaluation reports of four job applicants. The report for one of the applicants disclosed that the applicant had once commented to a co-worker, "I hear making love to you is like making love to the Grand Canyon." Brief in Opposition 3. At the meeting respondent's supervisor read the comment aloud, looked at respondent and stated, "I don't know what that means." Ibid. The other employee then said, "Well, I'll tell you later," and both men chuckled. Ibid. Respondent later complained about the comment to the offending employee, to Assistant Superintendent George Ann Rice, the employee's supervisor, and to another assistant