A unique Texas sexual discrimination lawsuit has been dismissed after the suit was undermined because the coach couldn’t prove her alleged harasser was homosexual.
As reported by the San Antonio Express-News, former Alamo Heights coach Catherine Clark filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the district claiming a female co-worker had sexually harassed her.
Clark’s lawsuit alleged that coach Anne Monterrubio frequently sexualized her and engaged in sexual conversations with her when they worked at Alamo Heights Junior High School. The suit said Monterrubio told Clark to close her legs in front of students, made frequent references to her behind and breasts, and made remarks in front of Clark to athletic coordinator Michelle Boyer about Clark giving oral sex.
Clark filed the discrimination complaint with the EEOC in 2008 and took a medical leave in April 2009 because the harassment caused her anxiety, the lawsuit states. Months later Clark was put on administrative leave with pay and then fired.
While the case was dismissed in a 6-2 majority ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, the decision was made based on the assumption that the judges could not prove that Monterrubio was gay and, as such, that her comments constituted legitimate sexual harassment as opposed to simple distasteful comments.
The court’s majority opinion provided more insight into the group’s decision:
“Sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination and, as such, requires proof that the alleged mistreatment was ‘because of’ the employee’s gender,” read the majority opinion.
“Anti-discrimination laws — in their current incarnation — do not guarantee a pleasant working environment devoid of profanity, off-color jokes, teasing, or even bullying. … Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Clark, her working environment was undoubtedly harassing,” the opinion said. “But based on Clark’s own version of events, which provides vital context that cannot be ignored in a legal-sufficiency review, a jury could not reasonably conclude the alleged harassment was motivated by her gender.”
While the ruling is interesting, it’s also at least a bit befuddling. If Monterrubio’s comments about Clark giving oral sex weren’t intended to harass her, it’s hard to know what their larger point was.
The case also serves to prove that bullying and discrimination continue, and can impact anyone. Even one of the coaches intended to keep the school sports environment safe.