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Retaliation

Victim blaming: Saying an employee invited sexual harassment is not a sound legal defense

In Youngblood v. City of Boston Public Schools, a teacher claimed illegal retaliation after she complained that a male student sexually harassed her.  A Superior Court judge rejected the School Department’s motion to dismiss the case, pointing to comments by the principal that the teacher’s conduct probably invited the harassment by the student.  In other words, the principal blamed the victim.  The judge allowed the case to go to a jury because the evidence indicated that the principal judged the teacher “through the lens of a stereotype.”

When the teacher reported to the principal that a second male student wrote a letter threatened her with physical harm, the principal told her to handle the situation herself.  The teacher subsequently received a negative performance evaluation.  Prior to her report, the teachers evaluations were all positive.  The court ruled that the close proximity in time between the teacher’s complaints and the adverse employment actions — which included the withdrawal of support of her participation in a licensure program — were sufficient to sustain a claim for illegal retaliation.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464
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pam@pamsmithlaw.com

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