A supervisor’s denial of voluntary overtime after learning that his subordinate reported his sexual harassment of her was a tangible employment action for which the employer was liable, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Under Title VII, an employer is strictly liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment where the harassment culminates in a tangible employment action. Typically, this has involved an event such as a termination, demotion or failure to promote. In Ray v. Int’l Paper Co., however, the Fourth Circuit explained that a “tangible employment action” includes a “significant change in employment status,” including a “decision causing a significant change in benefits.” Here, the plaintiff worked voluntary overtime almost daily, and the earnings constituted a significant part of her earnings. Thus, the denial of the opportunity to work this voluntary overtime could be considered a significant change in her benefits.