Fifth Circuit rejects nurse’s appeal for sexual harassment and discrimination, retaliatory firing claim to get second look

By Galia Binder | Apr 14, 2014

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

NEW ORLEANS – A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a sexual harassment and discrimination claim filed by a hospital nurse against the head of her department.

Monica Hague, a registered nurse, worked for University of Texas Health Sciences Center (UTHSC) as a civilian training officer in the emergency health services department from Dec. 15, 2008 through Aug. 31, 2011. During her employment, Hague alleged that Dr. Craig A Manifold, the department’s medical director, sexually harassed her.

Hague filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on June 17, 2011. Three days later, UTHSC notified Hague her employment would be terminated as of Aug. 31, 2011. Hague filed suit, claiming UTHSC unlawfully retaliated against her, discriminated on account of her gender and that she was sexually harassed in the work place.

Hague’s sex discrimination claim was rejected by the district court, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit who found Hague failed to include a specific discrimination claim on her EEOC intake sheet.

The Fifth Circuit also upheld the lower court's ruling concerning Hague’s sexual harassment claim, ruling that as Dr. Manifold was not her supervisor, Manifold did not have the power to threaten her employment status and therefore induce her complicity in an unwanted sexual act. Further, the court held that Manifold did not create a hostile work environment or make a physical advance towards Hague.

Hague also made an appeal of retaliatory action under Title VII, which prohibits an employer from taking action against an employee because she has filed an employment discrimination charge.

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling notes the district court’s failure to determine whether Hague had established a connection between her complaint and UTHSC’s decision not to renew her contract. The district court stated that even if Hague established this connection, her case failed to disprove all other reasons for which she could have been fired.

The Circuit rejected the district court’s opinion, holding that Hague effectively proved she was fired due to UTHSC’s retaliatory action, and decided the district court did not definitively rule on the connection of Hague’s complaint to UTHSC’s decision to fire her.  The Circuit has therefore sent Hague’s retaliatory claim back to the district court for further proceedings.

Case No. 13-50102.

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