BIRCH, Circuit Judge:
This appeal requires that we examine the extent to which an employer's institution and implementation of an anti-sexual harassment policy insulates that employer from liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for hostile environment sexual harassment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all claims. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's order granting summary judgment and dismissing this action.
Anita Farley was employed by American Cast Iron Pipe Company ("ACIPCO") as a dental assistant in 1987.
Two other female dental assistants, Tommy Castro and Teresa Hamby, also testified that Gann had engaged in what they deemed to be offensive behavior of a sexual nature. Hamby testified that Gann kissed her on two occasions; she further stated that she did not express to him that his advances were unwelcome. R2-44-14-17. Castro testified that Gann attempted to kiss her and press his body against hers, R2-57-44, 49, and that he continued this behavior even after she asked him to stop. Id. at 52. Castro also stated that she had seen Gann read Playboy magazine during office hours, id. at 21-23, and engage in offensive behavior on numerous occasions with Farley and "[e]very female in [the] department at one time or another." Id. at 53.
Gann was promoted to chief of dentistry on August 1, 1994. On September 6, 1994, Farley was scheduled to meet with Gann and the dentist to whom Farley was assigned, Dr. Faye Chambers, to discuss Farley's work performance. Prior to that meeting, Farley notified ACIPCO's employee representative, W.L. Morrow, of her concerns and allegations regarding Gann's behavior toward her. Morrow accompanied Farley to her meeting with Gann and Chambers. Morrow testified that both Gann and Chambers appeared to be nervous during the meeting. R2-43-17, 19. Farley testified that Gann and Chambers discussed with her at the meeting the need for her to schedule her personal doctor appointments at certain times of day. R2-41-51. Farley also testified that after Gann became chief of dentistry, he was more stringent with her than with other dental assistants in retaliation for her refusal to succumb to his sexual advances; specifically, Farley pointed to Gann's insistence that she schedule her personal doctor appointments early in the morning or late in the afternoon and his criticism that she was not attentive to returning patients' telephone calls. Id. at 55.
Following Farley's conversation with Morrow, Morrow notified Leann Barr, the Director of Human Resources, of Farley's allegations of sexual harassment. After meeting with Farley on September 9 to discuss these allegations, Barr and an Equal Employment Opportunity officer, Glenn Hicks, conducted an investigation on September 13 and 14, during which Barr and Hicks interviewed Farley's and Gann's colleagues. In a written report, Barr and Hicks concluded that "[n]either Dr. Gann nor Anita Farley were totally truthful about the events in question." R2-32 at Exh. E-7. They further concluded that "while Dr. Gann may have engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, the confirmed incidents were not so severe or pervasive as to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment." Id. at 8. Barr and Hicks recommended that Gann apologize for his behavior, receive a written reprimand, and be removed from any supervisory responsibility. Id. ACIPCO accepted these recommendations. It is undisputed that Gann, who had been promoted to chief of dentistry in August, 1994, was demoted from this position following the investigation into Farley's charges of sexual harassment. ACIPCO's vice president and treasurer, John Cook, testified that Gann's salary and benefits also were reduced to a level consistent with the demotion in title. R2-58 (John Cook Aff.).
Farley did not accept the results of the investigation, refused to return to her job as
Farley filed the instant action pursuant to both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), and Alabama law against both ACIPCO and Gann. In the complaint, Farley alleged that ACIPCO and Gann had subjected her to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment; retaliation for filing an internal complaint regarding the alleged harassment; and assault, battery, and invasion of privacy under state law. The parties later stipulated to dismiss the federal claims against Gann. In response to motions for summary judgment filed by both ACIPCO and Gann, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of both defendants and dismissed the federal action with prejudice and the state law claims without prejudice. In its memorandum opinion, the court found that (1) Farley had failed to show that ACIPCO could be held liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment; (2) Farley had failed to demonstrate that Gann's conduct was so pervasive as to charge ACIPCO with constructive knowledge of the harassment; (3) ACIPCO reacted promptly and effectively to Farley's complaint; and (4) Farley had failed to show that ACIPCO's legitimate reason for her termination was a pretext for retaliation. Having dismissed the federal claims, the court declined to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Farley's state law claims against Gann.
We review de novo the district court's order granting summary judgment. See Earley v. Champion Int'l. Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.1990). Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (citation omitted). On a motion for summary judgment, we must review the record, and all its inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962). We review the district court's findings of fact under the clearly erroneous standard of review. Pullman-Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 287-88, 102 S.Ct. 1781, 1789, 72 L.Ed.2d 66 (1982).
Title VII prohibits sexual harassment that is "sufficiently severe or pervasive `to alter the conditions of [the victim's] employment and create an abusive working environment.'" Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 2405, 91 L.Ed.2d 49 (1986) (quoting Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 904 (11th Cir.1982)) (alterations in original). In a sexual harassment action, a plaintiff may establish a violation of Title VII by proving that the harassment either was directly linked to the grant or denial of an economic quid pro quo or
We recently articulated the basic framework for analyzing a claim of hostile environment sexual harassment in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 111 F.3d 1530 (11th Cir.1997) (en banc). We delineated the agency principles that give rise to potential employer liability in the context of a hostile environment sexual harassment claim as follows: "An employer is directly liable for hostile environment sexual harassment if it knew, or upon reasonably diligent inquiry should have known, of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action." Id. at 1535. In contrast, an employer is indirectly liable for hostile environment sexual harassment by a superior if (1) the harasser was acting within the scope of his employment in perpetrating the harassment or (2) the harasser was acting outside the scope of his employment but was aided in accomplishing the harassment by the existence of the agency relationship. Id. at 1536 (citing Sparks v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc., 830 F.2d 1554, 1558 (11th Cir.1987)). In the latter instance, "the employer is liable only if the harassment is accomplished by an instrumentality of the agency or through conduct associated with the agency status." Id. at 1538.
Farley contends that Gann's criticism of her job performance during his brief tenure as chief of dentistry was solely in retaliation for her refusal to submit to his advances and, therefore, served as a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Farley further urges that (1) Gann's harassment of Farley was so severe and pervasive that ACIPCO had constructive knowledge of the harassment before Farley filed a formal complaint and (2) ACIPCO failed to take prompt and remedial action after Farley filed a grievance. We address seriatim each of these contentions.
A. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Farley's assertion that Gann's conduct constituted quid pro quo sexual harassment is without merit. We previously have held that quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when
Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 909 (11th Cir.1982) (italics omitted). Strict liability obtains in a quid pro quo context; "[w]hen a supervisor requires sexual favors as quid pro quo for job benefits, the supervisor, by definition, acts as the company." Steele, 867 F.2d at 1316.
Here, the record does not contain substantial evidence that Gann demanded Farley's acquiescence to his sexual overtures in exchange for a tangible job benefit. Indeed, the allegations that comprise the harassment claims refer to events that occurred prior to Gann's appointment to chief of dentistry. Moreover, it is undisputed that before Gann's promotion, Farley did not work under Gann's supervision as a dental assistant. In support of her quid pro quo claim, Farley notes that Gann — while acting in a supervisory capacity — criticized aspects of her job performance, particularly her attendance at the office. Dr. Faye Chambers, the dentist with whom Farley often worked, however, corroborated Gann's observation regarding Farley's absences. R2-58-26. More importantly, the type of behavior to which Farley points as indicating Gann's retaliatory conduct for her refusal to submit to his overtures does not constitute quid pro quo harassment under our circuit precedent. See, e.g., Henson, 682 F.2d at 900 (plaintiff established prima facie case of quid pro quo harassment where supervisor "made it clear to her that if she agreed to have a relationship
B. Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment
Farley avers that Gann's conduct was so severe and pervasive that ACIPCO knew or should have known that a hostile environment existed in the clinic with respect to Farley prior to the filing of a formal grievance. Farley further suggests that subsequent to her filing a complaint against Gann, ACIPCO not only failed to take prompt and remedial action, but took action that was retaliatory in nature.
The question of constructive knowledge is an issue of fact reviewed for clear error. Reich v. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 28 F.3d 1076, 1082 (11th Cir.1994). A plaintiff can prove an employer's knowledge of sexual harassment by showing that "the harassment was pervasive enough to charge the employer with constructive knowledge." Faragher, 111 F.3d at 1539 (citing Huddleston v. Roger Dean Chevrolet, Inc., 845 F.2d 900, 904 (11th Cir.1988)). We note at the outset that the record in this case does not contain sufficient probative evidence to demonstrate that ACIPCO had actual knowledge that, during the relevant time period, Gann sexually harassed Farley; apart from Farley and Castro, no other dental assistant or dentist interviewed during the course of ACIPCO's internal investigation confirmed the assertion that knowledge of Gann's harassing conduct was commonplace, nor did other employees corroborate first-hand knowledge of events Farley contends that everyone witnessed.
More importantly, however, we are persuaded that ACIPCO had a valid, effective, and well-disseminated policy prohibiting sexual harassment within the company and that, given the specific facts in this case, the existence of this policy precludes a finding of constructive knowledge regarding Gann's behavior. Farley does not challenge the efficacy or adequacy of ACIPCO's sexual harassment policy, nor does she dispute the fact that ACIPCO's policy was communicated to its staff and employees in training classes; in fact, it is undisputed that both Farley and Gann attended such a class in June, 1992, three years after the alleged harassment began but more than two years prior to the time Farley availed herself of ACIPCO's internal policy and filed a formal complaint. It is critical to note that ACIPCO's policy provided several alternate avenues by which a complainant could lodge a grievance. It is equally critical that ACIPCO's thorough investigation of this matter indicates that the company took complaints seriously and adhered to its own policy in practice. We determine that, because ACIPCO had an effective anti-sexual harassment policy that was unequivocally communicated to employees, ACIPCO was entitled to rely on the procedural framework provided in the policy to remain apprized of the conduct of its own staff.
Our holding is consistent with our view that direct liability exists when an employer knew
In sum, we hold that an employer is insulated from liability under Title VII for a hostile environment sexual harassment claim premised on constructive knowledge of the harassment when the employer has adopted an anti-discrimination policy that is comprehensive, well-known to employees, vigorously enforced, and provides alternate avenues of redress.
C. Retaliatory Discharge
Farley asserts that ACIPCO did not take prompt remedial action in response to her formal complaint. The record indicates, however, that ACIPCO immediately initiated an investigation of Farley's allegations; conducted extensive and thorough interviews with all members of the dental staff; prepared a report detailing the results of the investigation; sanctioned Gann for what ACIPCO found to be unprofessional conduct; and made strenuous efforts to relocate Farley to another position within ACIPCO. As previously mentioned, Farley remained employed by ACIPCO (on leave status) for several months after her complaint was filed and was terminated when it became clear that Farley would neither return to the dental clinic nor accept any other available position within ACIPCO. There is no evidence to support Farley's contention that her ultimate termination, six months after her grievance was initiated, was retaliatory or discriminatory in nature. Although Farley remains unsatisfied with ACIPCO's resolution of her complaint, we have never stated — nor does Farley propose that we have ever held — that a complainant in a discrimination action has a right to the remedy of her choice. We conclude that ACIPCO's response to Farley's formal grievance was both prompt and adequate and that her termination was neither retaliatory nor a pretext for discrimination on the basis of sex.
In this appeal, Farley argues that ACIPCO must be held liable for the conduct of one of its employees, Gann, who allegedly subjected Farley to a pattern of sexual harassment at the workplace. Farley avers that Gann's unwelcome sexual advances constituted both quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment; she further urges that ACIPCO's response to her formal complaint was neither prompt nor remedial and, ultimately, was retaliatory. We conclude that (1) the record does not contain sufficient evidence to establish either a quid pro quo claim for sexual harassment or a claim that ACIPCO in fact knew of the harassment but failed to take action; (2) under the facts of this case, ACIPCO's comprehensive, disseminated, and vigorously enforced anti-sexual harassment policy insulates the company from liability with respect to Farley's contention that it had constructive knowledge of the harassment; and (3) ACIPCO took immediate and effective corrective measures in response to Farley's grievance. We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.
Unlike Meritor, however, the instant action involves a set of procedures explicitly designed to "encourage victims of harassment to come forward." Id. As noted by the Supreme Court, the existence of this policy is "plainly relevant" to the employer's potential liability; in this case, we believe that the policy is not only relevant but dispositive of the action.