Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Employer Not Liable For Alleged Rape at Office

(CN) - A Texas woman who claimed she was raped at work during a co-worker's birthday party cannot collect damages from her employer negligence and assault, a state appeals court ruled.

Nicole Anderson worked as a credit manager for Impact Floors of Texas in 2011. She claimed that co-worker Henry Lopez sexually harassed her and other female employees.

She also alleged that Lopez' supervisor, Taylor Whitehead, brought alcohol to work to celebrate his birthday. According to Anderson, Impact Floors not only allowed alcohol in the office but encouraged it.

Eventually, only Anderson, Lopez and Whitehead were left at the after-hours birthday party. Anderson prepared to leave after getting a text from her husband.

Anderson stated that the next thing she remembers is her sister, Linda, walking into the bathroom to find Lopez on top of her with her skirt pulled up.

Linda testified that she found Anderson face-down on the bathroom floor with Lopez on top of her.

"He was raping her," she said.

According to her complaint, Anderson went to the hospital and learned that she had been raped.

Anderson sued Impact Floors for assault, battery and negligence, claiming that the company failed to provide her with a safe workplace. The trial court ruled against her.

On appeal, Anderson argued that Whitehead's conduct had resulted in Impact Floors ratifying Lopez' actions. The Fifth District Texas Court of Appeals disagreed in an opinion written by Justice Kerry P. FitzGerald.

"According to the police report," he wrote, "appellant admitted to the officers that she was under the influence of alcohol, denied that Lopez had touched her or attempted to engage in sexual conduct with her, and was laughing and did not appear to be in distress."

FitzGerald wrote that Impact Floors must prevail because Anderson did not prove the Whitehead knew what Lopez was doing.

"Appellant adduced no evidence that a vice principal for appellee possessed knowledge of the assault after it occurred and knowingly ratified it on appellee's behalf," he added.

Also, FitzGerald stated that Anderson did not prove her allegations regarding an unsafe workplace.

"She cites no authority and provides no legal argument explaining how the duty to supervise might apply to the scenario presented in this case," he wrote, "in which the incident occurred after business hours and no one involved in the incident was working at the time.

Impact Floors fired Lopez on the day after the incident, and Whitehead was fired three weeks later.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.