Law School Case Brief
Rabidue v. Osceola Ref. Co., Div. of Tex.-American Petrochemicals - 805 F.2d 611 (6th Cir. 1986)
In order to prevail in a Title VII offensive work environment sexual harassment action, a plaintiff must assert and prove that: (1) the employee was a member of a protected class; (2) the employee was subjected to unwelcomed sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; (3) the harassment complained of was based upon sex; (4) the charged sexual harassment had the effect of unreasonably interfering with the plaintiff's work performance and creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment that affected seriously the psychological well-being of the plaintiff; and (5) the existence of respondeat superior liability.
Plaintiff, Vivienne Rabidue, was a capable, independent, ambitious, aggressive, intractable, and opinionated individual, who initially worked as an executive secretary at Osceola Refining Co. (Osceola). She was thereafter promoted to the position of administrative assistant. Subsequently, she was assigned additional duties as credit manager and office manager. Included in the plaintiff’s new responsibilities was the authority to assign work to a number of other Osceola employees. The plaintiff’s supervisors and co-employees with whom plaintiff interacted almost uniformly found her to be an abrasive, rude, antagonistic, extremely willful, uncooperative, and irascible personality. She consistently argued with co-workers and company customers in defiance of supervisory direction and jeopardized Osceola’s business relationships with major oil companies. She disregarded supervisory instruction and company policy whenever such direction conflicted with her personal reasoning and conclusions. On one occasion, the plaintiff had a heated argument with the vice president of Osceola, and a subsequent confrontation with one of Osceola’s major customers. The plaintiff was formally discharged from her employment at the company on January 14, 1977. Subsequent to her discharge, the plaintiff applied for unemployment benefits with the appropriate state agency, payment of which Osceola opposed. Plaintiff also timely filed charges of discrimination against her former employer with the EEOC and thereafter commenced the instant action charging sex discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Act, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 37.2101 et seq., and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 206(d). The district court ruled in favor of Osceola, concluding that it was not liable for any pre-acquisition sex discrimination.
Did the district court err in ruling in favor of the defendant employer?
The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that plaintiff failed to sustain any of the claims which were asserted. The Court held that a review of the record disclosed that the district court's findings, namely that defendant's pre-discharge actions toward plaintiff did not evince an anti-female animus, were not clearly erroneous. The Court held that plaintiff neither asserted nor proved a claim of sexual advances, sexual favors, physical conduct, or sexual harassment. The Court further averred that plaintiff failed to prove that she had been subjected to unwelcome verbal conduct or poster displays of a sexual nature which had unreasonably interfered with her work performance and created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment that seriously affected her psychological well-being.
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