Ah, office romances, they are the basis of many a television drama, comedy, or dramady. In real life, they tend to stick to drama as those that don’t work out tend to explode into sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits. Not to mention of course that plenty of these office romances are affairs outside of a marriage.
This story has all of the makings of a good television drama. One of the players was reportedly married, then got divorced to pursue an office romance. All of it only to end in the woman’s demotion and a lawsuit against Harris County. To be more specific, Heather Saucier, a former employee of the county Flood Control District, allegedly entered into a relationship with a supervisor. The relationship caused the District’s director to ask Saucier to either leave the job or take a demotion so that she no longer reported to her boyfriend, according to the Houston Chronicle.
She ended up taking a 12% pay cut, according to the Chronicle. Based on these actions, Saucier filed a discrimination lawsuit. Was the settlement Harris County’s best option?
A gender discrimination lawsuit can be filed when it is clear that you have been denied a job, fired, demoted, or segregated from other workers, among other actions. The main issue is that you have been singled out and treated unequally because of your gender and not for any other reason.
Here, Saucier's main argument was that she was in a relationship started by her male supervisor, but she was the one who was asked to leave or accept a demotion. This argument shows two people in the same situation (in a romantic relationship with a coworker) who are being treated unequally.
Of course, there are no details as to whether the male supervisor was asked to leave or change his position.
Since a discrimination lawsuit can result in a payout of at least lost wages with interest, and would start the clock of when Saucier stopped working at the District, it is possible that if the District would be looking at paying out even twice what it paid to settle if it lost at trial.
Therefore, it was probably better to settle and save not only on the final pay-out but also on legal fees.
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