Sexual Comments Directed At Deputy’s Wife Not Sexual Harassment

John Rose was a jailer with the Upshur County, Texas Sheriff’s Department. Rose learned that two Sheriff’s Department employees had made inappropriate sexual comments and/or suggestive communications with his wife. Rose complained to the chief deputy about the employees’ comments and communications. On February 2, 2010, Rose’s wife, Crystal Rose, e-mailed Upshur County Sheriff’s Department Captain Gary Roberts to complain that a Sheriff’s Department employee was spreading rumors and statements about her and her husband.

The next day, Rose called in sick for work. Later that day, Captain Roberts called Rose at his home to discuss the complaints he and his wife had made. Captain Roberts was unable to reach Rose by telephone, so he sent a deputy to see if Rose was at home. The deputy arrived at the Roses’ home around 8:30 p.m. He observed a car in the driveway with “dealer” license plates, which prevented Carter from verifying who owned the car. He knocked on the front door for several minutes, but received no response.

The deputy left the home, but returned a few minutes before 9:00 p.m. When he arrived the second time, the deputy walked to the front of the home and observed that the front door was open. Through the open door he saw that the television and many of the lights in the home were on. He also noticed that the interior of the home appeared to have been ransacked and as though someone had been rummaging through it. The deputy yelled into the house several times to announce his presence, but he received no response. At this point, he called for backup.

When back-up arrived, the deputies entered the home, yelled for Rose, and searched inside for approximately four-and-a-half minutes. They did not find anyone inside. As the deputies were exiting the home, Rose and his family arrived. The next day, the Sheriff terminated Rose’s employment.

Rose sued, contending that the search and his termination were in retaliation for his complaints concerning the comments made about his wife. A federal trial court dismissed Rose’s lawsuit.

The Court found that “Title VII prohibits retaliation against individuals who oppose discriminatory employment practices or participate in complaints or investigations of employment practices prohibited by Title VII. In this case, Rose claims that he was terminated from his employment at the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office because he opposed sexual harassment. The alleged sexual harassment occurred when two Sheriff’s Department employees made inappropriate sexual comments and/or suggestive communications with Rose’s wife.

“Assuming the allegations in the complaint to be true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Rose, the Court finds that Rose’s allegations do not support a claim for retaliation because Rose has not alleged that he opposed an unlawful employment practice. Rose has not pleaded facts that show that he or another employee were subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment. The facts alleged hint that Rose’s wife was subjected to unwelcome sexual communications. But this is not an unlawful employment practice under Title VII.”

Rose v. Upshur County, Tex., 2012 WL 2088663 (E.D. Tex. 2012).