Hardage v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., 427 F.3d 1177 (9th Cir. 2005)

Hugh Hardage, a Local Sales Manager for KSTW-TV in Seattle, alleged that he was sexually harassed by Kathy Sparks, the station’s General Manager, who worked in Tacoma. Hardage claimed that he had been sexually harassed by Sparks on several occasions and subjected to retaliation after he rejected her advances, which occurred in the office and on five occasions outside of the office. Among other things, Hardage alleged that Sparks had touched and groped him, put her arms around his waist and said that he had a “cute ass,” offered him oral sex and “life-altering” intercourse and then responded with emotional outbursts and job-related threats after he rejected her advances. Hardage’s job performance was called into question when he and another Local Sales Manager repeatedly failed to meet their sales goals. Shortly thereafter (but five months after Sparks’ last sexual advance), Hardage resigned his employment because adverse market conditions had created a “pretty intense environment.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in defendants’ favor based upon the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense available under Title VII. The Court observed that Sparks’ alleged sexual harassment of Hardage ceased well in advance of his resignation and, therefore, could not have led to the constructive termination of his employment. Further, the Court held that the employer’s response to Hardage’s complaint of harassment (such as it was) was “both prompt and reasonable as a matter of law.” Finally, since Hardage had waited six months to make a complaint about Sparks and then specifically asked the company not to investigate, he unreasonably failed to make use of the employer’s anti-harassment policies and procedures.