“Mere Offensive Utterances” Do Not Amount To Sexual Harassment

After one month as an employee of the Lone Jack, Missouri Police Department, Terri Davison resigned. She sued the City and four police officers, claiming she was denied equal protection of law and constructively discharged due to her gender. When a trial court dismissed her law suit, Davison appealed to the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In support of her sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims, Davison emphasized that she daily overheard officers make offensive and vulgar statements about women. However, she acknowledged that no gender-related statements were directed at her.

Such is not the stuff of which sexual harassment claims are made, ruled the Appeals Court. In the eyes of the Court, “although the officers’ (alleged) statements about women were lewd and offensive, they do not constitute discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of Davison’s employment and create an abusive working environment. Mere offensive utterances do not constitute sexual harassment, nor create a hostile work environment.”

Davison v. City of Lone Jack, Missouri, 2005 WL 195589 (8th Cir. 2005).

This article appears in the April 2005 issue