ENGEL V. RAPID CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, a case dealing with the due process required in sexual harassment claims

There were 2 main issues and 1 side issue in this case:

First, whether or not the Rapid City District School (or RCDS) is entitled to summary judgment. The court ruled in the negative since there was a genuine issue of material fact which was established. That is, whether or not RCDS was responsible for the hostile working environment suffered by Engel after their first corrective measure. On this note, the court ruled in the negative. The corrective measures imposed by RCDS were prompt and reasonable, even though it failed to totally abate the harassment. The court also pointed out that RCDS was not required to fire Herrera on the first complaint of harassment

Second, whether or not RCDS is liable for constructive discharge. The court ruled in the negative. Engel failed to convince the court that the sexual harassment she suffered was deliberately intended by the employer. While RCDS was obviously negligent in abating the harassment, this negligence does not equate to liability for constructive discharge.

As implied by the passages below, the plaintiff needed to show that the employer did not act on her claims of harassment. Or, if there were actions taken, these were not calculated to stop the harassment.

[Proper remedial action need be only “reasonably calculated to stop the harassment,” Carter, 173 F.3d at 702, and remedial action that does not end the harassment can still be adequate if it is reasonably calculated to do so. Moore, 461] As the passages below indicate, the employer was NOT LIABLE because they had policies in place that the court was convinced were reasonably calculated to stop the harassment.

[The response was prompt, reasonably comprehensive in scope, and stern in its warnings. We therefore conclude as a matter of law that RCSD cannot be liable for a hostile work environment]

The employer’s actions were not sufficient mainly because they failed to stop the harassment altogether. There was a threat of termination which was never carried out and there was even a decrease in the severity of the sanctions which encouraged Herrera in his activities. The employer could have transferred Herrera to a different office and/ or subjected him to counseling.

While it would have been “safer” for Engel and the other women involved if the harasser were terminated, this would have been a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Herrera can just get a job somewhere else and harass someone else.

From a legal standpoint, instant termination would be a violation of due process since it seems like a penalty that is too severe for the crime. Making lewd comments and touching another person is not tantamount to rape to justify the imposition of penalty along the ranks of capital punishment.

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