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Employment – Code of Conduct

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Kristie Alley v. Penguin Random House

Case No.: 21-3158

Officials: Easterbrook, Kirsch, and Jackson-Akiwumi, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Employment – Code of Conduct

Kristie Alley sued her former employer, Penguin Random House, for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for breach of contract under Indiana law. Alley alleged that Penguin demoted

her in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and violated Indiana law in doing so. The Title VII claim proceeded to summary judgment, but the record demonstrated that Alley was demoted for her failure to report allegations as required by Penguin policy and, therefore, she did not engage in statutorily protected activity. Accordingly, the court concluded that no reasonable juror could find that Alley was retaliated against and granted Penguin’s motion for summary judgment on that claim. Alley now appeals that ruling, as well as the magistrate judge’s earlier dismissal of her state law breach of contract claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Seventh Circuit agrees. Penguin did not retaliate against her for reporting sexual harassment. Second, Alley cannot recover because the Code of Conduct is not an enforceable unilateral contract. A unilateral contract arises when “one party makes an offer (or promise) which invites performance by another, and the performance constitutes both acceptance of that offer and consideration.”


Decided 03/09/23

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