United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Employment — discrimination
An employee who sexually harassed a co-worker failed to meet his employer’s reasonable expectations.
“The record does not support Mr. Vaughn’s contention that he was satisfying the legitimate performance expectations of Forest Service management at the time he received the letter of direction. An employee who sexually harasses a co-worker cannot be considered to be meeting his employer’s legitimate expectations ‘by any stretch of the imagination.’ Grayson v. O’Neill, 308 F.3d 808, 818 (7th Cir. 2002). Even if, as Mr. Vaughn asserts, his unwanted contacts did not rise to the level of actionable harassment on account of sex—the subject of Ms. Towery’s EEOC complaint—he cannot contend seriously that he was performing his job in a manner that the Forest Service, or any other employer, would find acceptable. There is no validity to Mr. Vaughn’s suggestion that an employer must tolerate harassment of a co-worker, no matter how offensive or disruptive to the workplace, so long as the harasser does not cross the threshold that will subject the employer to liability for ignoring the harassment. See Hall v. Bodine Elec. Co., 276 F.3d 345, 359 (7th Cir. 2002) (explaining that the employer could have terminated plaintiff for engaging in ‘tawdry’ conduct not amounting to sexual harassment to avoid future complaints of sex discrimination or harassment). Mr. Vaughn had been warned that he would be disciplined—up to and including termination— if he did not remedy his behavior. He cannot use his prior EEO activity as a shield against the consequences of his inappropriate workplace conduct. See Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2008) (noting that ‘inappropriate workplace activities are not legitimized by an earlier-filed complaint of discrimination’).”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Stiehl, J., Ripple, J.