In the case of Greenberg v. Toledo Pub. Schools, 2023-Ohio-864, an appellate court held that a former teacher could not prevail upon alleged hostile-work environment, sexual harassment claims against a school district as the school district took timely and appropriate action to address the harassment as soon as the school district had either actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged harassment and, moreover, no reasonable person would feel compelled to resign given the facts of this case.
In this case, the teacher argued that (1) the school district had either actual or constructive knowledge of a principal’s current and past sexual harassment of female co-workers, (2) the school district failed to take timely and effective action against the principal, and (3) the teacher’s working conditions became so intolerable that a reasonable person in her position would have felt compelled to resign following her harassment complaint against the principal. In response, the school district argued that (1) the school district did not know about any allegations of current and/or past sexual harassment by the principal until after the former teacher filed a formal complaint as no prior formal complaints were ever made by anyone – including the former teacher – and there is no evidence, beyond rumors, that the prior conduct of the principal had created a hostile work environment for any school district employee; (2) upon receiving the only formal complaint from the former teacher, the school district immediately placed the principal on administrative leave, banned the principal from school district property, and began investigating the matter; and (3) no reasonable person would consider the working conditions of the former teacher so intolerable that they would feel compelled to resign as, in this case, the former teacher had no contact with the principal after his suspension pending the investigation, the former teacher returned to school for only one day after lodging her complaint and prior to her resignation, and the former teacher resigned before the conclusion of the investigation and even in advance of her interview with the investigators. The appellate court agreed with the school district.
In support of its decision in favor of the school district, the appellate court explained that there was no evidence that the school district had either actual or constructive knowledge of the principal’s current and/or past sexual harassment of female co-workers as no prior formal complaints were ever filed and mere rumors were insufficient. Next, the appellate court explained that the school district took timely and appropriate action to address the harassment and even prevented future harassment. Finally, the appellate court explained that the working conditions were not so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign.
To read this case, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.