KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge:
Harle Houldsworth filed claims against the City of Temple Terrace, Florida (the "City") for sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She now appeals
Houldsworth began her employment with the City in November 1987. Her tenure there continued through January 1996. From approximately June 1993 until May 1994, Houldsworth maintained an on-again, off-again personal relationship with Daniel Klein, City Finance Director and Assistant City Manager. Although Klein held a supervisory position within Houldsworth's department, Houldsworth's immediate overseer was Florence Lewis-Begin, Assistant Finance Director. After May 1994, Houldsworth and Klein ceased to have a sexual relationship. Houldsworth asserts, however, that Klein continued to pursue her romantically even subsequent to this date.
According to Houldsworth, she received exemplary job evaluations through October 1994, at which point her scores began to suffer.
Houldsworth asserts that after her relationship with Klein came to light in December 1994 her job evaluations continued to deteriorate. She scored lower on her May 1995 evaluation than she had on previous ones, and worse yet on her October 1995 evaluation. As a result, Houldsworth tendered her resignation on January 2, 1996, approximately six months after Klein's termination had become effective, and now claims constructive discharge.
We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, applying the same legal standards that controlled the district court's decision. See Shannon v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 113 F.3d 208, 210 (11th Cir.1997). We construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Wideman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 141 F.3d 1453, 1454 (11th Cir.1998).
Houldsworth asserted a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. To establish a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show: (1) that she belongs to a protected group; (2) that she has been subject to unwelcome sexual harassment; (3) that the harassment was based on her sex; (4) that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment; and (5) that there is a basis for holding the employer liable. See Johnson v. Booker T. Washington Broad. Serv., Inc., 234 F.3d 501, 508 (11th Cir.2000) (applying test from Mendoza v. Borden,
Focusing on the statutory language of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), the Supreme Court has, in recent years, begun to place renewed emphasis on what it means to be discriminated against "because of ... sex." See Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 80-81, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998) (holding that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII and stressing that "[t]he critical issue ... is whether members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment to which members of the other sex are not exposed") (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 25, 114 S.Ct. 367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993) (Ginsburg, J., concurring)). In light of Oncale, we are not persuaded that Houldsworth could meet the third prong of the Mendoza test, i.e. she cannot establish that the harassment complained of was committed by reason of her sex.
Applying Oncale, this court has distinguished between actions based on discriminatory animus and those based on personal animosity resulting from failed consensual relationships. See Succar v. Dade County Sch. Bd., 229 F.3d 1343, 1345 (11th Cir.2000). Succar involved a hostile work environment claim. Houldsworth, on the other hand, relies on the term quid pro quo in arguing her sexual harassment claim. Such a quintessential violation of Title VII occurs when a supervisor demands plaintiff's acquiescence to sexual overtures in exchange for a tangible job benefit. See Farley v. Am. Cast Iron Pipe Co., 115 F.3d 1548, 1552 (11th Cir.1997). Neither the Supreme Court nor this court, however, continues to employ a bright line distinction between the two kinds of claims.
Applying this rule to the case at hand, we find the consensual nature of the relationship between Houldsworth and Klein and any resulting feelings of enmity determinative. Most of the actions of which Houldsworth complains were committed by her immediate supervisor, Lewis-Begin, rather than by Klein. Houldsworth claims, despite offering no evidence in this regard, that Lewis-Begin was motivated by her friendship with Klein's wife to criticize Houldsworth's job performance. Such a motivation, however, would be attributable to personal animosity and would not meet the Title VII requirement that the alteration of terms and conditions of employment be "because of ... sex." See
This court does not today decide that once a consensual relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate is established, the subordinate could never then become victim to quid pro quo sexual harassment by that supervisor subsequent to the termination of the relationship. We hold only that the facts and circumstances of this case operate to take the motivation for any harassment that might have occurred out of the scope of Title VII.
We turn now to Houldsworth's retaliation claim. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII, a plaintiff must prove the following elements: (1) she participated in an activity protected by Title VII; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) there is a causal connection between the participation in the protected activity and the adverse employment decision. See Gupta v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 212 F.3d 571, 587 (11th Cir.2000). Statutorily protected expression includes internal complaints of sexual harassment to superiors as well as complaints lodged with the EEOC, and thus Houldsworth could establish a Title VII retaliation claim if she could prove the requisite causal nexus between either of these activities and an adverse employment decision. See Rollins v. Fla. Dep't of Law Enforcement, 868 F.2d 397, 400 (11th Cir.1989). Even assuming, however, that Houldsworth suffered an adverse employment action, any protected expression on her part occurred only after the commencement of the adverse employment actions of which she complains. According to Houldsworth's own allegations, she first notified someone within the City organization of her concerns in November or December of 1994. Her evaluations, though, began to suffer as early as October 1994.
As for Houldsworth's continuing negative evaluations, they were in response to well-documented job performance deficiencies.
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff-Appellant, we agree with the district court's finding that harassment, if any, suffered by Houldsworth was not the result of her gender, but rather in response to possible disappointment