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Clark County Sch. Dist. v. Breeden

Supreme Court of the United States

April 23, 2001, Decided

No. 00-866

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Respondent sued petitioner employer, alleging that petitioner retaliated against respondent in response to protected activities in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Upon petition for writ of certiorari, petitioner sought review of the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to petitioner.


Respondent alleged that, during a review of job applicant files, male co-workers' reactions to an applicant's sexually explicit comment constituted sexual harassment. Respondent further alleged that she suffered adverse employment actions for complaining about the alleged harassment. The United States Supreme Court first held that any punishment suffered by respondent for complaining to petitioner's officials did not constitute actionable retaliation, since the incident itself did not violate Title VII and the complaints thus did not constitute protected activity. The conduct of respondent's co-workers at most constituted an isolated incident which could not be deemed sufficiently severe and pervasive as to alter the terms and conditions of respondent's employment. Further, petitioner's intention to transfer respondent, expressed shortly after the lawsuit was filed, did not establish a causal connection between the transfer and the lawsuit based on temporal proximity, since petitioner was not served with the complaint until after the statement was made.


Writ of certiorari was granted, and judgment reversing grant of summary judgment to petitioner was reversed.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Unfair Labor Practices > Employer Violations > Interference With Protected Activities

Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Title VII Discrimination > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Retaliation > General Overview

HN1  Employer Violations, Interference With Protected Activities

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), specifically 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-3(a), it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees because the employee has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by Title VII, or because the employee has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Title VII.


Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Discrimination > Gender & Sex Discrimination > Federal & State Interrelationships

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Gender & Sex Discrimination > Employment Practices > Compensation

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Gender & Sex Discrimination > Employment Practices > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Sexual Harassment > Employment Practices > Compensation Discrepancies

HN2  Discrimination, Statutory Prohibition of Gender & Sex Based Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids actions taken on the basis of sex that discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1).


Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Crimes Against Persons > Coercion & Harassment > Elements

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Burdens of Proof > Standards of Proof > Objective & Subjective Standards

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Burdens of Proof > Standards of Proof > Pervasive & Severe Standards

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Sexual Harassment > Scope & Definitions > General Overview

HN3  Coercion & Harassment, Elements

Sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only if it is so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment. Only harassing conduct that is "severe or pervasive" can produce a constructive alteration in the terms or conditions of employment. Title VII forbids only behavior so objectively offensive as to alter the "conditions" of the victim's employment.

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532 U.S. 268 ; 121 S. Ct. 1508 ; 149 L. Ed. 2d 509 ; 2001 U.S. LEXIS 3365 ; 69 U.S.L.W. 3684; 85 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 730; 80 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P40,442; 2001 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3153; 2001 Daily Journal DAR 3893; 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 216



Disposition: Judgment of Court of Appeals reversed.