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Stockett v. Tolin

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Stockett, a female, who worked for three companies that were related and substantially integrated, brought suit against Tolin, an individual who substantially owned all three companies. Stockett alleged that Tolins was making sexual advances onto her and violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and liable for battery, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The parties stipulated for a nonjury trial.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the doctrine of intentional infliction of emotional distress, an employer’s intentional, pervasive, unwelcomed acts that are of a sexual nature may constitute sexual harassment.

    Facts.

    From December 1985 through April 1987, Michelle Ann Stockett, a 29 year old, workedfor three companies that are related and substantially integrated called Limelite Studios, Inc., Directors Production Company, and Limelite Video, Inc. (collectively, Corporate Defendants). Corporate Defendants was substantially owned by Frank Tolin, a 71-year-old man. Consistently, Tolinwould touch and speak to Stockett in a vulgar, sexual manner by pressing against Stockett in a manner that she would be unable to move, grab her breasts, stick his tongue inside her ears, and lick her neck. Also, Tolinwould constantlymake explicit, coarse, and degrading statements to Stockett about her sex with her. At all times, Stockett opposed Tolin’s advances, but continued working there because she needed the work and wanted to obtain experience in the industry. Tolin was an extremely successful man with a net worth in millions of dollars.Tolin’s employees knew ofhis sexual conduct, almost every female in the company had been subject to his sexual advances, and there were many witnesses to Tolin’s harassment of Stockett. Subsequently, on April 1987, Tolin threatened to terminate Stockett if she did not sleep with him. Stockett quit her job and brought suit against Tolin and Corporate Defendants on the basis of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as battery, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Stockett introduced evidence of past and ongoing damages from Tolin’s conduct including gastrointestinal conditions, loss of self-confidence, and an inability to trust men. The parties stipulated to a nonjury trial.

    Issue.

    Whether, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the doctrine of intentional infliction of emotional distress, an employer’s intentional, pervasive, unwelcomed acts that are of a sexual nature may constitute sexual harassment.

    Held.

    Yes, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the doctrine of intentional infliction of emotional distress, an employer’s intentional, pervasive, unwelcomed acts that are of a sexual nature may constitute sexual harassment.

    Discussion.

    Under Title VII, there are two forms of sexual harassments that are recognized. The first is a quid pro quo harassment in which the employer changes the condition of employment as a result of the employee’s refusal to perform the sexual demand. The second is called a hostile environment sexual harassment claim in which the employer’s sexual behavior unreasonably interferes with the employees work performance or causes the work environment to become hostile, offensive, or intimidating. In this case, the court finds that Stockett has satisfied both forms of sexual harassments under Title VII.Tolin has threatened to sleep with Stockett, and if Stockett does not sleep with him, Tolin will fire him. This constitutes a quid pro quo harassment. Also, Tolin’s continual aggressive sexual comments and conduct constitute the creation of a hostile-environment sexual harassment. Furthermore, Stockett has also satisfied her tort-law claims. Notably, when a plaintiff properly establishes a Title VII sexual-harassment claim, the plaintiff has also established a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Likewise, Stockett’s claims of battery, false imprisonment, and invasion of privacy are established by Tolin’s physical contact onto Stockett. In regards toStockett’s Title VII claim, the court awards her 147 weeks of back pay, from the date of her termination to the date of trial, and one year of front pay, since reinstatement to her position is not a proper remedy under these circumstances. In regards to Stockett’s tort claims, she is awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages. Lastly, the court finds that punitive damages should be awarded in light of public-policy considerations, the gravity of Tolin’s misconduct, the likelihood for similar harm in the film and production industry in the future, Stockett’s sacrifice of her privacy in bringing a suit of this nature, and Tolin’s wealth. Consequently, $1 million of punitive damages are granted against Tolin and $55,001 against Corporate Defendants. Stockett is awarded to reasonable attorney’s fees.


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