Both sides of sexual harassment case want summary judgments

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 17, 2008, 6:41am

Now that all discovery is complete in the sexual harassment case filed against Madison County by county employee Robin Beem, both sides argue that they are entitled to summary judgments.

Robin Beem filed her motion for summary judgment July 11, arguing summary judgment should be granted in her favor because through depositions and written discovery Madison County has admitted all elements of a Title VII sexual harassment claim.

Beem filed the sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against the county in U.S. District Court on Sept. 18, 2007, alleging she was exposed to a hostile work environment that included being exposed to pornography.

Beem alleged she was subjected to an unwelcome sexually harassing environment and was required to work in an environment that was objectively and subjectively hostile to her because she was a woman.

She is employed as the county board secretary.

"The hostile work environment required plaintiff to be exposed on a daily or near daily basis to extreme, graphic, and debasing computer/Internet pornography," Beem's complaint states.

"The sexual harassment that plaintiff was required to endure on a daily or near daily basis had the effect of substantially altering the conditions of plaintiff's work environment," the complaint states.

Beem alleges that on more than one occasion she reported "pervasive, ongoing and continuous sexual harassment and frequent exposure to extreme, graphic and debasing pornography" to high ranking county officials who had the authority to resolve her complaint but failed to take any effective remedial measures.

"High ranking managerial individuals failed to investigate or eliminate the sexual harassment," her complaint states.

In her suit, Beem also alleges high ranking officials permitted the hostile work environment to continue despite actual knowledge of violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to Beem, she filed a timely charge of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and they issued her a notice of right to sue.

Beem claims she experienced embarrassment, humiliation and severe emotional distress as a result of the sexual harassment and pervasive hostile work environment she was required to work in.

Beem's suit is over the actions of former Madison County Administrator Jim Monday, who retired in March 2006, after 20 years on the job.

At the time of Monday's departure, Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz confirmed that a computer was taken from the administration building, but declined to say if it belonged to Monday.

Hertz said he would not comment on an internal matter because sometimes internal matters can turn into criminal matters.

Beem wants Murphy to enter judgment in her favor for liability and to hold a trial on the issue of damages only.

She is represented by Lee Barron of Alton.

Beem was not the only one to file a summary judgment motion on July 11. The County also filed one arguing it is entitled to summary judgment for two reasons.

"First, Plaintiff did not experience a tangible employment action (discharge, demotion etc.), and she unreasonably failed to take advantage of the Madison County Sexual Harassment Policy including the written complaint form," the motion reads.

It continues, "Second, the facts as developed through discovery show that the conduct alleged does not rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment."

Madison County argues Beem only alleges she viewed pornography on the computer of her supervisor while her supervisor was in his private office.

"There is no allegation of inappropriate touching, inappropriate comments, or forcing Plaintiff to view the pornography," the motion states.

The County argues that the facts show Monday tried to hide the fact that he was viewing porn on his computer.

"[T]he facts show that her supervisor was attempting to hide the fact that he viewed pornography in his office," the county argues.

Madison County also wants Beem's prayer for punitive damages struck.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has forbidden assessing punitive damages on municipalities and other political subdivisions," the motion states.

Murphy will hold a hearing over both motions at 2 p.m. on Aug. 11.

Madison County is represented by Larry M. Bauer of St. Louis.

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