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Brush v. Sears Holdings Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
466 F. App’x 781 (11th Cir. 2012)


Facts

Janet Brush (plaintiff) worked for Sears Holding Corp. (Sears) (defendant) for 15 years before accepting a new position as a loss prevention district coach. Brush’s new job entailed minimizing risks, to both merchandise and employees, at the 20 stores she oversaw. In September 2007, Brush was contacted by Mrs. Doe, an assistant store coach at one of the stores in Brush’s district. Mrs. Doe told Brush that she was being sexually harassed by her store coach. Brush notified Sears of the complaint. Sears suspended the accused store coach and instructed Brush and another Sears employee, Scott Reuter, to interview Mrs. Doe for further investigation. Brush and Reuter interviewed Mrs. Doe together, but both believed Mrs. Doe was not entirely forthcoming. Brush and Reuter decided that Brush would interview Mrs. Doe again, without Reuter present, to see if Mrs. Doe had more details to share. During the second interview, Mrs. Doe told Brush that the store coach had forcibly raped her multiple times. Brush reported this information to Reuter, and they in turn reported it to Sears. Brush urged Sears to contact local law enforcement, but Sears declined to do so, because its internal investigation was still ongoing. Sears fired the accused store coach, but Brush continued insisting that the company should report the rape to the police. In November 2007, Sears fired Brush for violating its policies on investigating company sexual harassment claims. According to Sears, Brush violated its investigation procedures by interviewing Mrs. Doe individually, asking Mrs. Doe leading questions, and failing to obtain video evidence. Brush sued Sears under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging she was fired in retaliation for actions she took while investigating the sexual harassment claim. The district court granted summary judgment to Sears, concluding that Brush had not engaged in any protected activity under Title VII. Brush appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Fay, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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