Orton-Bell v. State of Indiana, No. 13-1235 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Bell was employed as a substance abuse counselor at an Indiana maximum security prison. An investigator, looking for security breaches, discovered that night-shift employees were having sex on Bell’s desk and told her that he was not concerned about night-shift staff having sex but suggested she wash her desk every morning. The superintendent said that, as long as inmates were not involved, he was not concerned. Immediately thereafter, the superintendent discovered that Bell was having an affair with the Major in charge of custody (allegedly involving sex on his desk) and both were terminated. The prison settled the Major’s appeal to the State Employees’ Appeals Commission and called him to testify against Bell at her appeal. Major was able to keep his benefits, including his pension, to quickly get unemployment benefits, and to subsequently begin working at the prison as a contractor. Bell was not afforded similar benefits and opportunities and filed suit, alleging Title VII claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The district court granted summary judgment to the state, concluding that Bell was not similarly situated to the Major, that she failed to prove retaliation, and that the sexual tenor of the prison’s work environment was not severe or pervasive enough to qualify as hostile. The Seventh Circuit reversed with regard to the discrimination and hostile environment claims, but affirmed with regard to her retaliation claims.