In March of 2013, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky decided a case that involved a woman who had filed a sexual harassment case under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA). (See Suiter v. Logan County Regional Detention Center, 2013 WL 780390 (Ky. App. 2013)). The lower court had issued summary judgment in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff in this Kentucky sexual harassment case appealed it to this court. This court for the following reasons affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the case back down to the trial court.
On June 14, 2004, the plaintiff was hired as a deputy jailer by the Defendants. About four years later, in August of 2008, the plaintiff complained that a male co-worker has subjected her to repeated sexual harassment. Plaintiff claimed that he made inappropriate sexual comments, couched the inside of her leg, grabbed and kissed her, made sexual innuendos, and requested her to commit sexual acts. Id. The defendants undertook an investigation of plaintiff’s Kentucky sexual harassment claims and after the investigation was completed came to the conclusion that the allegations of sexual harassment could not be substantiated. Id.
The plaintiff’s Kentucky sexual harassment attorney filed the lawsuit after and as to one of the defendants, listed him in his individual capacity. The court granted summary judgment and stated that the individual defendant was shielded form liability in his individual capacity by the doctrine of qualified official immunity. Id.
This Kentucky appellate court found that the plaintiff’s Kentucky sexual harassment attorney was correct. The KCRA did protect the plaintiff as to the individual named therein. At issue was whether the defendant was named in his individual or official capacity. The court stated that he was listed in his official and individual capacities. The court stated that “a public officer who is sued in his official capacity is afforded the same immunity as the pertinent governmental entity.” (cites omitted). “As to an action under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, our Supreme Court has held that sovereign immunity is legislate waived regarding claims against the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, including counties. (cites omitted). Thus, the individual named could be held accountable under the KCRA. But, not in his individual capacity. “Qualified official immunity shi8leds a public official from liability when sued in his individual capacity. To be entitled to qualified official immunity, the public official must be performing a discretionary act as opposed to a ministerial act.” (cites omitted).
The court and plaintiff’s Kentucky sexual harassment lawyer went on to discus what qualified as a discretionary act versus a ministerial act. Also, the court looked at the hostile work environment claim by plaintiff. The plaintiff must demonstrate that 1) she was a member of a protected class, 2) she was subjected to unwelcome harassment, 3) the harassment complained of was based upon sex, 4) the harassment unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created a hostile or offensive work environment that was severe and pervasive, and 5) the employer knew or should have known of the charged sexual harassment and failed unreasonably to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.” (cites omitted). The court held that the alleged wrongful act was ministerial, therefore, the defendant was not entitled to assert qualified official immunity in this action. Id.
If you have been the subject of a Kentucky sexual harassment case, please call and speak to a Kentucky sexual harassment lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew Alitowski, P.A. at 888-ASK-ANDREW (888-275-2637) or contact us. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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