Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, 542 U.S. 129, 124 S. Ct. 2342 (2004)

Nancy Drew Suders alleged sexual harassment by her supervisors, officers of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), of such severity that she was forced to resign. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court in this case was whether the PSP could avail itself of the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense first enunciated by the Court in 1998 in a case such as this where the employee has resigned her employment arguably before suffering a “tangible employment action.” The Supreme Court held for the first time that an employee may state a claim under Title VII for constructive discharge if the abusive working environment becomes so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign. However, the Court reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and held that the affirmative defense may be asserted unless the employee quit in response to an adverse action officially changing her employment status or situation, such as, for example, a humiliating demotion, an extreme cut in pay, or a transfer to a position in which the employee would face unbearable working conditions.