Willkie Joins Civil Rights Organizations in Filing Amicus Brief in 4th Circuit Judiciary Employee Sexual Harassment Case

August 26, 2021

The brief calls for an end to the Federal Judiciary’s anomalous exemption from Title VII, which provides protections to employees who have been harassed at work, therefore allowing judicial employees to more easily report misconduct and receive an adequate remedy.

On August 26, Willkie, in partnership with the Purple Campaign, Legal Momentum, National Women’s Law Center and other non-profit organizations, filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit in support of Appellant Jane Roe in Roe v. United States of America et al. The appeal is focused on the scope of protections for employees of the Federal Judiciary who report harassment and other discrimination.

Roe’s brief and the amicus brief detail the pervasive sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and retaliation to which Roe was subjected when she was constructively discharged from her position. When Roe attempted to use the internal mechanisms available to her to report the conduct, she was not taken seriously and was required to use the Fourth Circuit's mandatory alternative dispute resolution process, which denied her basic due process and equal protection rights.

The brief outlines the Federal Judiciary’s public history of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and urges the Court to reverse the lower court’s decision and “affirm that its own employees are entitled to the Constitutional guarantee of the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination.” The amicus brief also argues that the Federal Judiciary should be held to the same standards as other employers when responding to employee reports of harassment and discrimination. The Federal Judiciary currently has an anomalous exemption from Title VII, which would typically provide protections to employees who have been harassed at work, making it extremely difficult for judicial employees to report misconduct and receive an adequate remedy. The amicus brief calls for the end of this judicial exceptionalism.

The Purple Campaign is a non-profit organization focused on addressing workplace harassment by implementing stronger corporate policies and establishing better laws. The National Women’s Law Center is dedicated to the advancement and protection of women’s rights, and the right of all persons to be free from sex discrimination. Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund is a leading national civil rights organization that has used the power of the law to define and defend the rights of women and girls for over 50 years.

Associate Kristin Bender led the drafting of the brief, with support from partner Michael Gottlieb and associate Michaela Connolly.

The brief can be viewed here.