Represent One Violation
Federal Judge Improperly
Separated Hostile Environment
Events Based on Transfer Date
In Isaacs v. Hills Pet Nutrition, No. 06-2201, the Seventh Circuit recently held that an employer could not hide behind a time line dividing sexual harassment on the basis of the employee's transfer from one department to another. Isaacs alleged that she had been the target of unwelcome sexual conduct while working on the Packaging Team from 2000 to 2002, then while working on the Stretchwrap Team from 2002 to 2005. Each team had separate management and separate locations in the plant.
When she sued in federal court, she pleaded that the cumulative effect of what she had experienced constituted a hostile environment. The trial judge bought Hill's argument that she could not include the harassment on the Packaging Team because it occurred more than 300 days before she had filed charges with the EEOC. Since what was left was insufficient to constitute illegal harassment, the court found, it entered summary judgment for Hill.
Judge Easterbrook disagreed, reasoning that the disparate identities of the harassers, based on departments, were irrelevant. Hill was responsible for its reaction to her complaints, regardless of the locations in the plant of the unwelcome behavior. Furthermore, Easterbrook stated: "When Isaacs moved from Packaging to Stretchwrap, the two team leaders met to discuss her, and [sic] Isaacs' new superior picked up where her old one left off."