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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Has the 7th Circuit created a special doctrine for below-the-age-of-consent teenagers who experience sexual harassment at work?

An article by Hofstra Law Prof Joanna Grossman, published in FindLaw.com's Writ this weekend, is titled "In a Title VII Case, Can a Teenage Employee Consent to Sex With Her Supervisor? The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Says No." It begins:

Typically, a sexual harassment plaintiff must prove that her supervisor's advances were "unwelcome." But what if the supervisor had sex with the plaintiff when she was below the age of consent? Must his advances still have been unwelcome? Or in harassment law, as in the criminal law pertaining to statutory rape, is the underage person's attitude toward the sexual conduct irrelevant?

According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit - addressing a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal anti-discrimination law that prohibits workplace sexual harassment -- the answer is that an adult's advances to an underage teen need not be unwelcome in order to be actionable.

Under the law of the relevant state, Illinois, the plaintiff in that case was incapable of giving valid consent to sexual intercourse; she was 16 and Illinois' age of consent is 17 (or, in special circumstances, 18). Thus, the sex she had with her supervisor was a crime on his part: statutory rape. Based on this fact, the appeals panel - in an opinion written by noted judge Richard Posner - held that the plaintiff could win her case whether or not she could prove that her supervisor's advances were unwelcome.

The case is Jane Roe v. Oberweis Dairy. The case is mentioned briefly in this ILB entry from July 29th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 2, 2006 11:02 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions