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Meritor Savings Bank V. Vinson Case Case Study

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Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson Case

Week 1 Case Study

Employment Law – Summer 2009

Webster University

Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson

Supreme Court of the United States, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).

Case Summary

Mechelle Vinson was employed at Meritor Savings Bank from 1974 to 1977 (Twomey). Mechelle Vinson (respondent) brought forward allegations against Sidney Taylor (petitioner), a vice-president and branch manager of Meritor Savings Bank, and against Meritor Savings Bank (petitioner). Vinson claimed that during her employment at Meritor Savings Bank, she had been sexually harassed by her immediate supervisor, Sidney Taylor, which was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she was seeking injunctive relief and damages (Tomey). However, Vinson had not made any claims against Taylor while employed at Meritor because she was afraid of Taylor and that she was afraid she would lose her job and because the grievance procedure was outlined that complaints had to be made to one's supervisor. Taylor was Vinson's supervisor so she did not file the complaint of sexual harassment.

Vinson's and Taylor's testimonies presented were conflicting; Taylor denied any and all sexual misconduct and denied any type of sexual relationship between himself and Vinson. Vinson's testimony revealed that she had provided Taylor sexual favors in 40 different instances (Meritor Savings Bank v Vinson).

Meritor Savings Bank did have a general complaint policy but not a specific sexual harassment policy. The grievance procedure for general complaints was that employees had to raise the grievance with their supervisor, so Vinson did not bring it to Taylor's awareness that she felt he was violating her Title VII rights. This is a precarious position, since Taylor is the alleged perpetrator and her supervisor.

The District Court denied relief without resolving the conflicting testimony and found that the sexual relationship between the respondent and the petitioner was of mutual agreement. The case then went to the Court of Appeals where it was reversed and remanded. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion (Tomey).

Case Study Questions

1. Is the fact that the sex-related conduct by an employee and her supervisor was "voluntary" a defense to a sexual harassment charge?

I believe in some cases "voluntary" sexual relationships could be used as a defense to the sexual harassment charge. However, in Meritor Savings Bank v Vinson, since Taylor was


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