Monday, November 3, 2008

Can A Woman Be Fired From her Job For being Stalked By a Stranger?


In Washington, D.C., Attorney Dawn Martin released the following press release on her recent filing in an important case before the supreme court:


PRESS RELEASE

“Working while Female:” Supreme Court Will Decide whether to Review D.C. Circuit Decision Holding that a Woman Can be Fired for being Stalked by a Stranger in her Workplace !

Washington, D.C. – Martin v. Howard University and Alice Gresham Bullock, U.S. Supreme Court No. 08-204. As a law professor at Howard University, Dawn Martin was stalked by a delusional, homeless, serial stalker of African-American female professors. The stalker, Leonard Harrison, was searching for the physical embodiment of his "fantasy" wife -- a fictional female character, Geneva Crenshaw, in a book, And We are not Saved, written by Prof. Derrick Bell. Instead of following its own security procedures to ban the stalker from campus, Howard responded to her requests for protection by refusing to renew her teaching contract. Prof. Martin sued Howard, alleging sexual harassment/hostile work environment and retaliation for protesting sexual harassment. Martin is the first case to present the issue of "gender profiling" in the employment context -- or the "working while female" factor. The application of “gender profiling” to sexual harassment cases will also set precedent for racial, ethnic, religious profiling harassment cases.

Ms. Martin filed a Petition for Certiorari in the Supreme Court, asking the Court to review the March 31, 2008 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. See Petition for Certiorari, Howard’s Brief in Opposition and Ms. Martin’s Reply Brief at http://www.dvmartinlaw.com/MartinvHowardU.html. On November 14, 2008, the Supreme Court will decide whether it will hear the case on the merits. Roberta Wright, Esquire, representing the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) and the other women's advocacy groups, has stated that she will file an Amicus Curiae Brief within the next few days.

Groups that want to be included should immediately contact Ms. Wright at rywright@msn.com and Ms. Martin at dvmartinlaw@yahoo.com.
Dawn V. Martin, EsquireLaw Offices of Dawn V. Martin, LLC1725 I Street, N.W., Suite 300Washington, D.C 20006

(202) 408-7040 D.C. phone
(703) 642-0207 office
(703) 642-0208 facsimile

4 comments:

Alexis Moore said...

Thanks for blogging about this very important case. Women should not have to live or work in fear. The U.S. Supreme court only reviews a handful of cases each year and we are all hoping that Attorney Martin's case will be reviewed by November 13, 2008.

Please sign on in support of the amicus US Supreme Court brief by contacting Atty Roberta Wright or Attorney Dawn V. Martin today!

Sincerely,

Alexis A. Moore
Survivors In Action

Dawn V. Martin said...

Thank you for your coverage of my case, Martin v. Howard Univ. and Alice Gresham Bullock, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-204, and for providing a forum for comments. I wanted to update your readers on its status and also, to fill them in on some of the details of the case. On December 12, 2008, I filed a Rule 44 Petition for Rehearing in the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reconsider my case. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), joined by other women's advocacy and anti-violence groups, filed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) Brief supporting my original Petition, but the Court denied the Amici’s motion to late file it, so their arguments were not considered. I have petitioned the Court to consider their arguments and also to reconsider, in light of its pending review of Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, another case similarly alleging sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. See http://www.dvmartinlaw.com/MartinvHowardU.html.

As a law professor at Howard University, I was stalked by a delusional, homeless, serial stalker of African-American female professors, Leonard Harrison. The stalker was searching for the physical embodiment of his "fantasy," or ideal "wife" --modeled after a fictional female character, Geneva Crenshaw, in a book, And We are not Saved, written by the renowned Professor Derrick Bell. Instead of following its own security procedures to ban the stalker from campus, Howard responded to my requests for protection by refusing to renew my teaching contract. I sued Howard for sexual harassment/hostile work environment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, as well as race, color, ethnic origin and religion. Martin v. Howard University is the first to present the issue of "gender profiling" or "working while female" in the employment context. The lower courts held that I had no legal recourse against Howard University for failing to take reasonable steps to end the workplace stalking or for refusing to renew my teaching contract after I asked the Law School administration to use the University’s own Campus Security procedures to protect me – as well as other women -- from a serial campus stalker.

I filed my case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment that is “sexual in nature” or based on gender. I argued that: 1) since 78% of stalking victims are women, stalking constitutes harassment on the basis of gender; 2) when the stalker uses “gender specific” language and criteria to select his victim, the stalking is harassment based on gender; and 3) where a stalker pursues a woman to make her his “wife,” the harassment is stalking “sexual in nature.” I am asking the Court to apply Title VII to protect women from workplace stalking and from employer retaliation for reporting stalking. Women who are doing nothing more than “working while female” should not have to choose between their jobs and their safety.

In 1999, I set precedent in federal district court, for the D.C. Circuit, in Martin by adopting the EEOC Regulation 29 CFR 1604.11(e), holding that an employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment of an employee, by a non-employee, if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to end it. Martin v. Howard University and Alice Gresham Bullock, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19516, 1999 WL 1295339, 81 FEP Cases 964 (BNA), 15 IER Cases 1587 (D.D.C. 1999). Judge Hogan identified the jury questions as: 1) whether Harrison’s harassment was severe and pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment; and 2) whether Howard took reasonable steps to end it. The jury agreed with me that Harrison’s harassment did create a “hostile work environment” for me and that Howard did not take reasonable steps to end it; yet the verdict was for Howard. With insufficient legal instruction from the judge, the confused jurors found that the harassment was not based on sex – and therefore, that my complaints were not “protected activity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Many people have asked me how the jury could possibly have concluded that a man who pursued me to be his “wife” did not pursue me based on my gender – after all, he would not have pursued me to be his “wife” – defined as a “married woman” – if I were a male professor at Howard. He also would not have “profiled” me as “Geneva Crenshaw” if I were male, since “Geneva” is a female character. So, this issue was supposed to be the threshold, “no-brainer” that Judge Hogan had already resolved, as a matter of law, based on the undisputed facts, in his 1999 decision. Judge Hogan did not allow us to question the jury after the trial, but I believe that the determining factor was that Howard repeatedly told the jury that my claim must be defeated because I entitled her memos to then Law School Dean Alice Gresham Bullock “Security Problem on Campus” rather than “Sexual Harassment.” The case law specifically holds that a plaintiff does not need to have used the words “sexual harassment” to invoke Title VII. (I actually did initially use that term, but, as I explained at trial, after the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department characterized Harrison as a “stalker,” that is the term that I used to describe him, since the word “stalking” is, by definition, repeated and serious harassment. I asked Judge Hogan to instruct the jury that it is not necessary to use the precise words “sexual harassment” to invoke Title VII protection, using his own words from his 999 decision, but he flatly refused to provide it. Numerous courts have recognized that stalking is one of the most egregious forms of sexual harassment. Judge Hogan also refused to provide the jury with the D.C. stalking statute, which defines “stalking” as repeated harassment. Without the proper legal framework for analyzing harassment based on sex, jurors were confused into accepting Howard University’s argument that the stalker’s harassment was not sexual in nature or based on sex and that my complaints did not constitute “protected activity.”

I believe that the Court should consider my case along with Crawford. Both Ms. Crawford and I lost their jobs shortly after reporting the harassment to our respective employers. Both of us deprived of the opportunity to prove that we lost their jobs due to retaliation for reporting the harassment. In both Crawford and Martin, the respective Circuit Courts held that we did not engage in “protected activity” because of how we reported the sexual harassment to our employers. The Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford would control the outcome of Martin. If Martin is considered as a companion case to Crawford, or supplements Crawford, the Supreme Court would provide lower courts with a more comprehensive definition of “protected activity,” whether the harasser is an employee or a non-employee in the workplace.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month -- so it is particularly appropriate that, on January 9, 2009, the Supreme Court will consider reviewing a workplace stalking case. Coincidentally, it is also during Stalking Awareness Month that Sky Radio will be broadcasting an interview with me about the case on American Airlines, from December 16, 2008 through January 31, 2009, as one of the women highlighted in its series entitled “Salute to Women in Leadership,” featured in Time Magazine. I am also currently featured as one of "American’s Premier Lawyers,” in “The Law Business Insider which includes another radio interview discussing the case.

In an recent interview with Barbara Walters, Paula Abdul directed public attention to the issue of workplace stalking, as a result of the recent suicide of a woman stalking her. Ms. Abdul alleged that her employer, American Idol, allowed the stalker on the show -- her workplace --for "entertainment value." A videotaped audition shows another contestant singing a song he had written about his desire to "stalk" Ms. Abdul. This is only the most recent publicized example of workplace stalking that is simply not taken seriously. These incidents also highlight the callousness of so many people to the issue of stalking and the fact that there is no federal statute that expressly protects stalking victims against employer retaliation for complaining about stalking -- or that obligates employers to take reasonable steps to keep known stalkers out of the workplace.

Liberty G said...

Every woman in America should be demanding that this case be heard - and that Dawn Martin achieves the justice she deserves. It is not only about Dawn, however - we are all equally vulnerable to sick individuals that stalk defenseless women.

I have not been stalked - but I've on a number of occasions been terrified by a threatening or mentally unbalanced male with whom I found myself alone. How much worse to be in that situation every minute of every day!

There is no excuse for not protecting women from this kind of harassment, certainly none for allowing it to threaten not just their freedom of movement, privacy, personal safety, but their jobs as well!

Yes, if the Supreme Court does not do the right thing, we should hound Congress until they do.

Blessings,

Liberty G

Dawn V. Martin said...

PRESS RELEASE: February 12, 2009
Law Offices of Dawn V. Martin, LLC e-mail: dvmartinlaw@yahoo.com

(202) 408-7040; (703) 642-0207 website: www.dvmartinlaw.com



TV Documentary on Federal Case Holding that a Woman can be Fired for being Stalked by a Stranger in her Workplace, or “Working while Female”



Washington, D.C. – Martin v. Howard University and Alice Gresham Bullock, U.S. Supreme Court No. 08-204. WATCH a new television documentary, featuring esteemed leaders such as Kim Gandy (President of NOW), renowned civil rights Professor Derrick Bell and a former Howard University Security Officer, Dr. Amos Sirleaf, who all strongly support former Howard Law School Professor, Dawn Martin in her efforts to protect stalking victims against employer retaliation. Insider Exclusive website, with producer/host Steve Murphy, at http://insiderexclusive.com/martin.htm (For clearest digital viewing, download Apple quicktime 7.6 version.) Ms. Martin has also been featured on Sky Radio as part of its series on “Salute to Women in Leadership,” noted in Time Magazine and numerous radio shows.



Martin is the first case to present the issue of "gender profiling" in the employment context -- or the "working while female" factor. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), joined by additional women’s and victims’ advocacy groups, filed an Amicus Brief in this case, stressing the need to protect stalking victims from employer retaliation. Prof. Dawn Martin was stalked taught at Howard University Law School by a delusional, homeless, serial stalker of African-American female professors, Leonard Harrison. Harrison was searching for the physical embodiment of his "fantasy" wife -- a fictional female character in a book, written by the renowned civil rights Professor, Derrick Bell. Instead of following its own security procedures to ban Harrison from campus, Howard responded to Prof. Martin’s requests for protection by refusing to renew her teaching contract. She sued Howard, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment, on the basis of sex/gender. Prof. Martin alleged that Howard permitted the stalker to harass her on the basis of her gender in her workplace. 78% of stalking victims are women. 54% of female murder victims reported their stalkers to the police before being killed by them. Prof. Martin further alleged that Howard retaliated against her by refusing to renew her teaching contract because she asked for protection from Harrison on campus.



In 1999, the federal district court set precedent in Martin, adopting the EEOC Regulation 29 CFR 1604.11(e), holding that an employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment of an employee, by a non-employee, if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it. In 2006, after a trial, the jury agreed with Prof. Martin that Harrison’s harassment did create a “hostile work environment” for her and that that Howard did not take reasonable steps to end it; yet, the jury verdict was for Howard. With insufficient legal instruction from the Court, the confused jurors found that the harassment was not based on sex; Prof. Martin’s complaints were not therefore not “protected activity” under Title VII. The Supreme Court initially declined to review Martin, but nine days later, it decided Crawford v Nashville. Crawford clarified that “protected activity” under Title VII is a question of law for the Court, not a factual question for a jury. On February 9, 2009, therefore, Ms. Martin filed a motion to supplement her Petition for Rehearing, to include the law set by Crawford. Under Crawford, the jury should never have been required to decide this legal question. The Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of workplace stalking. The application of “gender profiling” to sexual harassment cases will also set precedent for racial, ethnic, religious groups in profiling harassment cases under Title VII and other EEO statutes. For more details and links to other cites discussing the case, see www.dvmartinlaw.com/MartinvHowardU.

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