Karen Graves, a nurse, has claimed that the lead nurse sent her two text messages. Both texts were sexual in nature. In the first text, sent to Ms. Graves while she was on vacation, David Schum told her to "just have fun and wild sex." For the second text, Mr. Schum referred to Ms. Graves and her husband having "wild sex" and Mr. Schum told her that he thought about sex all the time but was "just not getting it." After she complained to her supervisor, Mr. Schum was reprimanded. He began to treat Ms. Graves rudely, throwing a medical chart at her, denying her some lunch breaks and assigning her the most difficult tasks.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the text messages did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The content of the emails did not reflect an “anti-female animus” or suggest that Mr. Schum was seeking sexual relations with Ms. Graves. According to this court, his anger at her later stemmed from her complaints against him and not from her status as a woman. Even assuming the conduct towards her was gender based, it was not “severe or pervasive” to meet the standard of a hostile work environment for Title VII discrimination. No retaliation claim was asserted by Ms. Graves.
One of the justices dissented, asserting that the overtly sexual nature of the texts did not need to be motivated by an “anti-female animus.” This justice believed that a reasonable jury could find that Mr. Schum did in fact want to pursue a relationship with Ms. Graves and was using the texts about sex as a way to begin. According to this dissent, “Social context is key” and comments that are inappropriate or unprofessional when made by a man to another man “may cross the line into harassing behavior when said to a woman.”