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Employer May Still Be Liable When Employee Could Not Reasonably Complain

Generally, employers are liable for sexual harassment under Title VII when employees put them on notice and they fail to take action. In Minarsky v. Susquehanna Cty., the Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether an employee who felt she could not report the harassment was still entitled to pursue a claim against the employer.
Sheri Minarsky was a part-time secretary working for Thomas Yadlosky, Jr., a Director for Susquehanna County. Ms. Minarsky’s working space was isolated from other employees. Ms. Minarsky has alleged she was sexually harassed by Mr. Yadlosky very soon after she began employment. He subjected her to unwanted touchings, asked her inappropriate questions, and sent her sexually explicit emails. In the beginning, she asked him to stop. Rather than cease his behavior, it became more intense and she became afraid of angering him. Ms. Minarsky was aware that Mr. Yadlosky’s boss had observed his inappropriate behavior toward other women but had only verbally reprimanded him. Although she was aware of the County’s anti-harassment policy for reporting, Ms. Minarsky did not report him. Mr. Yadlosky had been warned previously with no change in his behavior or follow up from above, and he had told her that she could not trust the County administration.
The Third Circuit considered the facts and concluded that a jury should decide whether Ms. Minarsky was reasonable in not reporting the harassment. The evidence showed that several county supervisors knew of Mr. Yadlosky’s harassment but mostly ignored it. She needed her job to support a child that was ill and she feared retaliation. She worked alone with Mr. Yadlosky, separated from others, and she testified that whenever she spoke up for herself on any issue, he became angry. Those facts, in conjunction with Mr. Yadlosky’s warning that the supervisors were not to be trusted and her knowledge that no action had been taken in response to other harassment, could lead a jury to find her failure to report reasonable.