(CN) – The 1st Circuit reinstated the gender discrimination claims of an Army medical clinic staffer who said her supervisor repeatedly talked about her underwear and said she dressed like a “woman of the streets.”
The Boston-based appeals court rejected a judge’s finding that the alleged harassment amounted to nothing more than a lack of courtesy and professionalism.
“[T]he record does not permit that conclusion,” Judge Kermit Lipez wrote for the three-judge panel.
While working as a medical records technician at the Rodriguez Army Health Clinic at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, Ruth Rosario claimed her co-worker-turned-supervisor, Ivan Arroyo, was “abusive on a daily basis.”
Another clinic employee said Arroyo would “talk about [Rosario’s] underwear and especially her panties … right behind her back.” Arroyo told Rosario that the way she dressed made him “uncomfortable,” she claimed, and he would “have everybody come to my area and check me out.”
When Arroyo became Rosario’s supervisor, she said he continued to humiliate, criticize and mock her. He allegedly said she was fat and had delinquent children, and told her co-workers that she dressed like a “woman of the streets.”
She said his harassment created a hostile work environment, causing her to become depressed, lose hair, have panic attacks and eventually require hospitalization. She said she needed psychiatric treatment and medication, and blamed her broken marriage on her work situation.
She filed a Title VII gender discrimination claim, but the federal judge sided with the Department of the Army and Arroyo. U.S. District Judge Francisco Besosa found Arroyo to be a “rude man that lacked courtesy and professionalism,” but said Rosario “failed to prove that she was subjected to conduct sufficiently severe or abusive so as to constitute hostile work environment based on sex.”
The federal appeals court, however, said the evidence suggested otherwise.
“Even if Arroyo’s alleged behaviors could reasonably be viewed as offhand comments or isolated episodes … that view is certainly not the only one that could reasonably be drawn from the record,” Lipez wrote.
The court revived the lawsuit and remanded, saying a jury should decide if the alleged harassment amounted to a hostile work environment.