Justice Nancy Mills of the Cumberland County Superior Court has found that St. Joseph’s Manor, now known as St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence, subjected its employee Trudy Little to unlawful sexual harassment. Ms. Little worked for St. Joseph’s as a cook. Her supervisor Joe Mitchell is the one who sexually harassed her. Among other things, Mr. Mitchell wrote Ms. Little sexually explicit letters. He sent her text messages two or three times per week, and some had sexual connotations. For instance, he once said that he would lay on the floor and stick a broom handle “up his butt.” Mr. Mitchell also talked to Ms. Little about sex and made comments about the size of her breasts. St. Joseph’s management was well aware of Mr. Mitchell’s sexual harassment but all they did was tell him to “knock it off” or “stop.” Consequently, the court found that St. Joseph’s Manor did not do enough to stop Mr. Mitchell from sexually harassing Ms. Little.
Due to the sexual harassment she experienced, and the fact that it caused her to suffer from panic attacks, Ms. Little felt that she had no choice but to resign. While Justice Mills believed that Ms. Little experienced unlawful sexual harassment, she did not find that a reasonable person in Ms. Little’s position would’ve felt she had no choice but to resign. This is not an uncommon result. Many courts have found that women have suffered unlawful sexual harassment while at the same time finding that a reasonable person in the woman’s position would not have felt compelled to resign.
Justice Mills awarded Ms. Little $20,000 plus interest. Under the Maine Human Rights Act, St. Joseph’s will likely have to pay Ms. Little’s attorneys’ fees and costs too. The Maine Employee Rights Group and Guy Loranger worked on behalf of Ms. Little to achieve this result.