In December of 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the District Court of Oregon’s grant of defendant Umpqua Bank’s summary judgment initiated under Title VII by a former bank employee who alleged she was harassed in the workplace by a customer and that Umpqua inadequately addressed the issue.
Former Umpqua Bank employee Jennifer Christian claimed a customer sexually harassed and stalked her while she was working at the bank. The alleged harassment included events such as the customer dropping off presumptuous notes saying things like they were “meant to be together,” and that Christian was the “most beautiful girl he[‘d] seen,” with flowers and frequent visits to follow. Christian allegedly notified the bank manager and colleagues about the situation, but all she received was advice “to be careful.” Id.
Over a year and a half after the alleged harassment began, the bank closed the customer’s account, told him not to return, and transferred Christian to another branch – with less pay. Christian eventually resigned upon her doctor’s advice that working for the bank was bad for her health and later sued for gender discrimination and retaliation.
“The purpose of Title VII is . . . through law to liberate the workplace from the demeaning influence of discrimination, and thereby to implement the goals of human dignity and economic equality in employment.”
The Ninth Circuit ultimately ruled that Umpqua Bank failed to prove its responsibility to ensure Title VII rights to Christian, adding that “A forced transfer is no remedy,” and the bank’s “…glacial response…was too little too late.”
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