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Faragher v. City of Boca Raton

524 U.S. 775 (1998)

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Faragher v. City of Boca Raton

United States Supreme Court

524 U.S. 775 (1998)

Facts

Beth Ann Faragher (plaintiff) worked as an ocean lifeguard for the city of Boca Raton (the city) (defendant) from 1985 to 1990. Bill Terry (defendant), David Silverman (defendant), and Robert Gordon were her supervisors. Terry and Silverman made lewd remarks to Faragher and other female lifeguards and subjected them to offensive and uninvited touching. Terry said he would never promote a woman to lieutenant, and Silverman threatened Faragher with having to clean toilets for a year if she refused to date him. Faragher told Gordon about her treatment, but Gordon did not report Terry’s and Silverman’s conduct to anyone. As an ocean lifeguard, Faragher worked at the beach and did not have contact with other city management. The city had no way for lifeguards to report sexual harassment without involving their direct supervisors. The supervisors of ocean lifeguards had virtually unchecked authority over them. The city made no effort to disseminate its sexual-harassment policy to beach employees. Faragher sued Terry, Silverman, and the city in federal district court for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, seeking nominal damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees. The trial court held Terry and Silverman liable and the city vicariously liable. The appellate court reversed in part, holding that the city was not vicariously liable for Terry’s and Silverman’s harassment, because they were not acting within the scope of employment. Faragher sought certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Souter, J.)

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