Nebraska court rules in hostile work environment case

Chris Rizo Aug. 23, 2008, 4:53pm

Michael McCormack

LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline)-The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday outlined the criteria for lawsuits against harsh work environments and hostile job conditions.

The ruling marks the first time the state high court weighed in on working conditions that might prompt an employee to leave a job.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court endorsed criteria federal appeals courts have outlined in past decisions to determine whether a hostile work environment existed.

The court said Title VII says for a hostile work environment to exist, harassment "must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment."

In a lawsuit brought by Jamie Gavin against her former employer, Rogers Technical Services Inc. in Friend, Neb., Gavin claimed she left her job in 2005 after three weeks because company president William Keith Rogers made sexual comments to her, such as "Nobody is hornier than he is," court papers say.

Gavin testified at trial that she felt especially uncomfortable because RTSI's office was in Rogers' apartment.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Lancaster County District Court Judge John Colborn erred in throwing out the lawsuit because a jury should be able to decide whether Rogers created a hostile work environment for Gavin.

"In granting the employer's motion for summary judgment, the district court determined that Gavin failed to make a prima facie case that her working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign," Justice Michael McCormack wrote for the court.

McCormack said the justices found "genuine issues of material fact as to both the hostile work environment and constructive discharge claims.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court remanded the case back to the county district court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

More News