Patterson Harkavy Defeats Summary Jugment in Sexual Harassment Case

In the case of Pascoe v. Furniture Brands International, Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment today.  The case will now proceed to trial, which is scheduled for later this month.  Ann Groninger and Joshua Van Kampen represent the plaintiffs, Pam Pascoe and Margaret Tambling, against their former employers in this case.

Judge Whitney did not issue a written decision, but plaintiff’s memorandum in opposition to summary judgment well describes this case:

This case raises a very poignant and present question, which is the extent of an employer’s liability under state and federal law for the conduct of a seemingly mentally unstable supervisor who tormented his female employees with threats of violence, including gun violence, surveillance of their homes, and numerous bizarre sexual comments. Regrettably, the conduct at issue in this case is a cautionary tale of an employer that flubbed the handling of a potentially dangerous situation by initially ignoring glaring warning signs, subsequently severely under-reacting to them, and which ultimately chose to circle the wagons around the proverbial outlaw, rather than act as a responsible member of our corporate community. Thankfully, Spicer did not turn his guns on these women as he said he might, but plaintiffs feared that he was fully capable of physically harming them. They have carried emotional scars left by Mr. Spicer’s conduct; injuries made worse by their employer’s betrayal of them. Defendants may aim to use their summary judgment motions to establish a low water mark of the protections afforded women in the workplace in North Carolina; however, plaintiffs respectfully submit that they have marshaled sufficient facts to permit a jury to answer that question.