Wyoming Attorney General: Camp Guernsey Sex Discrimination Complaint Falls Flat
The Wyoming Attorney General's Office says the woman who accused her boss at Camp Guernsey of sexual harassment and then the Wyoming Military Department for doing nothing about it before she resigned has made her case too late, and too little.
The U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of Amanda Dykes filed the civil rights lawsuit in March, more than four years after the federal statute of limitations expired in September 2015, according to the Wyoming Attorney General's memorandum to dismiss the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.
As for too little, the Attorney General's memorandum said the Department of Justice and Dykes failed to show her supervisor, Don Smith, created a hostile work environment when they worked for the Wyoming Military Department's Youth Challenge Program.
The problems began after she returned from maternity leave in October 2010, when Smith said he "sought a close personal relationship," according to their complaint.
Dykes repeatedly rejected his advances such as written expressions of affection, asked him to stay professional, and filed fruitless complaints with the Wyoming Military Department. Smith eventually openly mocked her and criticized her publicly. Dykes resigned Sept. 22, 2011, according to the complaint.
Illegal? No, according to the Wyoming Attorney General.
The U.S. Supreme Court has stated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act "does not create a 'general civility code for the American workplace,'" according to the memorandum. Socializing, male-on-male horseplay and flirting may be annoying, but they aren't discriminatory. "'To be actionable, harassment must have been so severe or pervasive that it created an objectively hostile or abusive working environment.'"
In other words, these behaviors don't count: a supervisor can ask an employee out, stare at her, walk by her desk repeatedly, offer to have an affair, kiss her, and compliment her physical features and her underwear.
Without threatening conduct, verbal abuse or obscene language by the supervisor, Dykes does not have a case, according to the memorandum. "DOJ has not provided sufficient well-pled facts to plausibly establish that Smith created an objectively hostile or abusive work environment."
Likewise, the Department of Justice has not alleged Smith was abusive, intimidating or degrading, nor alleged he even touched Dykes, according to the memorandum.
The federal government and Dykes also did not show the Wyoming Military Department created such an intolerable work environment to the point she had no choice but to quit in what is known as "constructive discharge."
Like the large jump from annoying sexual comments to "hostile work environment," the federal courts have ruled poor supervisory treatment such as tongue lashings and lying that cause employee discomfort don't rise to the level of "constructive discharge."
That happens only in cases "involving threats of physical harm or truly outrageous emotional abuse" such as holding a pistol to an employee's head, according to the memorandum.
Dykes claims are subjective based on "her feelings of helplessness,'" according to the memorandum. "Because a constructive discharge claim is an entirely objective inquiry, these subjective evaluations carry no weight."