Calling Female Officer ‘Darling’ Does Not Amount To Sexual Harassment

Stormy Magiera works for the Dallas, Texas Police Department. Magiera and a fellow officer, Sergeant Ingram, responded to a nightclub where they had heard a gunshot. Ingram became irritated at how Magiera was processing the scene, and asked her to “speed the process up and issue some people some tickets so they could get out of there.” To the contrary, Magiera believed that the responding officer should arrest some of the patrons of the nightclub.

The dispute between the two culminated when Ingram approached Magiera and said “Come here, Darling, so I can talk to you.” Though Magiera told Ingram not to call her “darling,” he repeated the comment and later yelled to another sergeant, “Come talk to your girl, because it’s obvious I can’t.”

Magiera complained about Ingram’s comments, and the City counseled Ingram on his inappropriate choice of words. Magiera nonetheless sued for sexual harassment, contending that the comments made her unable to focus her attention on her job.

A federal court did not believe that Ingram’s comments were close to reaching the threshold for sexual harassment. As the Court analyzed it, “the comment allegedly made by Ingram was that Magiera was a ‘darling.’ It does not evidence an intent to discriminate on the basis of gender. The comment is at best no more than a stray remark, and stray remarks alone will not overcome overwhelming evidence corroborating an employer’s non-discriminatory rationale. Further, it does not appear that the alleged conduct greatly impacted Magiera’s work performance.

“Under the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that any harassment experienced by Magiera was not so severe and pervasive that it could reasonably be perceived as altering the conditions of Magiera’s employment.”

Magiera v. City of Dallas, 2009 WL 1576469 (N.D. Tex. 2009).

This article appears in the October 2009 issue