Saturday, February 14, 2009

Workplace Stalking Case Update

AAUW has been following harrassment and stalking suits in the workplace. This month, Dawn Martin has requested a re-hearing before the Supreme Court in her case Martin v. Howard.

Here's an update and a link to a fascinating interview (streaming video) with Dawn, Derek Bell, and others supporting her case on Insider Exclusive TV.

The case, short version:
Ms. Martin was stalked at Howard Law School where she was on faculty by a deranged homeless man who believed she was the physical embodiment of a fictional woman in a novel by Derek Bell. Howard did not take reasonable steps, or follow its own security procedures, to protect her and refused to renew her teaching contract because, Martin alleges, she asked for on-campus protection.

In 2006, after a trial, the jury agreed with Prof. Martin that harassment did create a “hostile work environment” for her and that Howard did not take reasonable steps to end it; yet, the jury verdict was for Howard. With insufficient legal instruction from the Court, the confused jurors found that the harassment was not based on sex; Prof. Martin’s complaints were not therefore not “protected activity” under Title VII.

The Supreme Court initially declined to review Martin, but nine days later, it decided Crawford v. Crawford which clarified that “protected activity” under Title VII is a question of law for the Court, not a factual question for a jury.

On February 9, 2009, therefore, Ms. Martin filed a motion to supplement her Petition for Rehearing, to include the law set by Crawford. Under Crawford, the jury should never have been required to decide this legal question.

The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of workplace stalking. The application of “gender profiling” to sexual harassment cases will also set precedent for racial, ethnic, religious groups in profiling harassment cases under Title VII and other EEO statutes.

For more details and links to other cites discussing the case, see
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