NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge earlier this month ruled that a teacher at William J. Fischer School in Algiers, La. cannot sue the school itself over sexual harassment allegations because the school investigated her complaints. The ruling also stated that because the plaintiff’s alleged injuries “arise out of and in the course of her employment,” that her claim of negligence against Algiers Charter Schools Association (ACSA) should be dismissed.
The judge also dismissed some claims brought by teacher Lindsay Garcia against William J. Fisher School’s former principal, Stanley Green, but ruled there were sufficient facts to support an intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim against Green.
In that claim, the plaintiff alleges a pattern of ongoing, repeated harassment in the form of frequent sexual comments and gestures and that Green threatened to "kidnap" and "subdue" her. The court ruled this alleged conduct “is sufficiently extreme and outrageous to satisfy the first element of an IIED [intentional infliction of emotional distress] claim” and that the facts infer that Green “knew his allegedly harassing conduct would be substantially certain to result in [the] plaintiff’s severe emotional distress.”
Garcia sought damages under Title VII. This court ruling dismissed Garcia’s claims against ACSA for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The ruling also dismissed the assault and battery claim against Green.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ruled that Garcia’s claims for assault and battery against both ACSA and Green be dismissed because there was no evidence that a physical assault actually took place.
Garcia did not allege any actual physical contact between her and Green, but she said that she felt threatened. The court ruled the threat of harmful or offensive contact must be imminent and that Garcia’s claims did not prove facts upon which the court may infer that Green was able to carry out his verbal threat.
“'Generally, mere words do not constitute an assault,'” Vance said in the decision, citing a 2008 case.
According to the lawsuit, the allegations date back to September 2016 when Garcia claims that Green told her "he wanted to 'kidnap' or 'snatch' someone, 'subdue' them and 'keep them for a period of time.'"
According to plaintiff, she nervously laughed and told him that “he can’t do that to kids,” and Green responded that "it was not a kid he wanted to kidnap and subdue."
Later that day, Green allegedly asked Garcia if she would like to be kidnapped or subdued. The lawsuit goes on to allege that Green began sexually harassing Garcia in August 2016, allegedly making unwanted sexual overtures and comments in person, in notes left on Garcia’s desk, text messages and during telephone calls.
The suit says Garcia complained to the ACSA human resources department but that no action was taken.
Green left the William J. Fisher School in early 2017. In dismissing the case against ACSA, the judge ruled the plaintiff failed to prove her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying, at most, the allegations support the inference that ACSA investigated Green’s conduct.
Garcia claimed ACSA was negligent for not terminating Green, which allegedly “placed her in danger of a sexual predator” at her workplace. The judge dismissed this claim saying it is barred by the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act (LWCA).
Garcia’s suit argues that because of the ACSA’s inadequate investigation, she continued to suffer from Green’s harassment until he left in 2017. In dismissing the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court ruled that the plaintiff “points to no authority suggesting that a merely inadequate investigation rises to the level of outrageous and extreme conduct.”