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Billings v. Town of Grafton
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
515 F.3d 39 (2008)
Nancy Billings (plaintiff) worked as a secretary for the Town of Grafton’s (defendant) town administrator, Russell Connor (defendant). Billings observed that Connor repeatedly leered at her chest during conversation. The leering was so frequent that Billings felt uncomfortable being alone with Connor and even held a piece of paper in front of her chest when she walked around the office. One day, the leering was so frequent that Billings left work to change her clothing. As a result, Billings made a formal complaint to the town’s sexual harassment officer, Nancy Hazen. Hazen was aware of prior accounts of Connor’s inappropriate conduct. Hazen passed Billings’s complaint to the Grafton Board of Selectmen (the board) (defendant). After the town attorney became involved in the matter, Connor’s leering temporarily decreased in frequency but soon returned to previous levels. Connor confronted Billings about her complaint and later began communicating with Billings through notes or grunts. Billings continued to report Connor’s conduct and the board eventually initiated a formal investigation by the town’s lawyer. The lawyer found that Connor was simply poor at maintaining eye contact during conversation and that Billings was not sexually harassed. Around the same time, Billings filed charges of discrimination against the town and Connor with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the state equivalent. The EEOC granted Billings a right to sue, so she filed hostile-environment, retaliation, and intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claims in the district court against Connor and the town. Then, Billings provided a letter to the board detailing 11 instances of leering in a recent two-and-a-half-month period. The board hired an outside attorney to investigate Connor’s leering. The attorney found that Connor’s leering was not due to sexual intent. An ophthalmologist who Connor visited diagnosed him with a condition that caused his eyes to drift. Connor and the town moved for summary judgment, which the court granted due to a lack of overt sexual behavior. Billings appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Howard, J.)
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