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Court Turns Away Sexual Harassment Suit Against Ford Motor Co.

February 20, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today refused to revive a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., filed by an Ohio woman who says her ex-husband harassed her while they both were at work.

The court, without comment, turned away Rose Ann Rothenbusch’s argument that she should not have to prove her former husband intended to discriminate against her because of her gender.

Rothenbusch and her husband, Fred Meyer, had worked as supervisors at Ford’s plant in Batavia, Ohio, when in 1990 they separated and filed for divorce.

Rothenbusch said Meyer began harassing her at work, making vulgar remarks and putting up insulting posters, including one that invited people to have sex with her. In May 1991, she filed a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Days later, Rothenbusch and Meyer became involved in a dispute at work and she sprayed him in the face with a mace-like substance. Rothenbusch was fired. Ford officials later reprimanded Meyer for violating the company’s sexual harassment policy.

Rothenbusch sued Ford, accusing the company of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliating against her by firing her. The jury ruled against her, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

In the appeal acted on today, Rothenbusch’s lawyers said the jury wrongly was told she had to prove Meyer’s actions were based on her sex, not because of personal animosity.

Her lawyers said that standard would allow people to escape being held responsible for sex harassment if they could show they had some other motive, such as personal animosity or revenge.

Ford’s lawyers said people who claim that harassment caused a hostile work environment must show that the harassment was based on gender.

The case is Rothenbusch vs. Ford Motor Co., 95-972.

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