Ninth Circuit: Fired Harassers Lose Sex Discrimination Claim

The plaintiffs were males who worked for Executive Jet. They were fired after an investigation revealed they engaged in certain inappropriate conduct that violated the Company's anti-harassment policy. The female who complained filed a charge with the EEOC, which found cause to believe a violation of Title VII occurred. The male employees claimed that the female was a willing participant and engaged in the same conduct of which she complained.

The males sued for, among other things, sex discrimination. They claimed that Executive Jet fired male employees for sex-based conduct, but not females who engaged in similar conduct.

The court engaged in detailed analysis regarding whether the male and female employees were "similarly situated," but found that they were not. The males never complained about harassment. The female did. Although the presence of a complaint by one group is not per se enough to render employees non-similar, that was enough to render their situations different in this case.

The court's analysis also included whether the EEOC's probable cause finding should be admitted as evidence that the males' conduct warranted action taken against them. The court of appeal reaffirmed its rule that EEOC probable cause determinations may be admissible in some circumstances, particularly in summary judgment proceedings and bench trials, where there is little chance of prejudice.

The case is Hawn v. Executive Jet and the opinion is here.