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Foster v. Univ. of Maryland-Eastern Shore

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

January 27, 2015, Argued; May 21, 2015, Decided

No. 14-1073

Opinion

 [*246]  FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

This appeal concerns the effect of the Supreme Court's decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct. 2517, 186 L. Ed. 2d 503 (2013), on what Title VII retaliation plaintiffs must show to survive a motion for summary judgment. ] In Nassar, the Court held that a successful retaliation plaintiff must prove that retaliatory animus was a but-for cause of the challenged [**2]  adverse employment action, eliminating mixed-motive liability under the "lessened" motivating factor test. However, the Nassar Court was silent as to the application of but-for causation in McDonnell Douglas pretext cases. Because we conclude that Nassar did not alter the McDonnell Douglas analysis for retaliation claims, we reverse in part the district court's grant of summary judgment.

On March 12, 2007, Plaintiff-Appellant Iris Foster was hired by Defendant-Appellee the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (the University) as a campus police officer.1 Her appointment was subject to a standard six-month probationary period, during which she was essentially an at-will employee. The campus police department was supervised by Lawrence Wright. Rudolph Jones, one of Foster's new coworkers, supervised the campus security guards and reported directly to Wright. Foster and Jones worked in the same building.

According to Foster's uncontradicted evidence, Jones began sexually harassing Foster before she even started work: He spied on her while she was being fitted for her new uniform in a state of partial undress. The harassment continued during Foster's first month on the job. Among other things, Jones stared at her, made lewd or suggestive comments about her, kissed and pinched her on the cheek, and pressed his groin against her buttocks while laying his arm across her breasts.

A month after the harassment began, Foster notified her superiors about Jones's inappropriate sexual conduct. First, she spoke to Wright, who tried to resolve the matter informally by meeting with Foster and Jones that same day. Foster then told the University's Director of Human Resources, Marie Billie, that Jones had sexually harassed her, and later sent Billie a written complaint detailing Jones's harassment.

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787 F.3d 243 *; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8384 **; 127 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 167; 99 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P45,319

IRIS FOSTER, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND-EASTERN SHORE, Defendant - Appellee. METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON EMPLOYMENT LAWYERS ASSOCIATION, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. (1:10-cv-01933-TJS). Paul W. Grimm, Magistrate Judge; Timothy J. Sullivan, Magistrate Judge.

Foster v. Univ. of Md. E. Shore, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140207 (D. Md., Sept. 27, 2013)Foster v. Univ. of Md. E. Shore, 908 F. Supp. 2d 686, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171597 (D. Md., 2012)

Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

retaliation, harassment, causation, termination, pretext, prima facie case, retaliation claim, retaliatory, sexual harassment, summary judgment, district court, animus, fired, reasons, reasonable jury, adverse employment action, but-for, protected activity, hostile work environment claim, grant of summary judgment, direct evidence, prima facie, real reason, investigated, mixed-motive, anticipated, recommended, imputable, argues, notice

Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Retaliation, Burdens of Proof, Elements, Causation, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Genuine Disputes, Materiality of Facts, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Statutory Application, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Employee Burdens, Appellate Briefs, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Dicta, Judicial Precedent, Sexual Harassment, Employee Burdens of Proof, Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Standards of Proof, Pervasive & Severe Standards, Employer Liability, Business & Corporate Compliance, Correction & Prevention, Harassment by Coworkers, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations