Exclusive Remedy Bars Employee of Horse Training Facility from Relief for Sexual Misconduct Claim

When a worker alleged a co-worker sexually assaulted her while on the job, her employer said under state law, she had exclusive legal remedy.
By: | November 16, 2019

Chelsea Flint was hired by a horse training and boarding facility Franktown Meadows Inc. in Nevada. While completing her regular duties, she alleged a co-worker sexually assaulted her while on the job.

She notified both the president and owner of the facility and the facility’s secretary. According to Flint, both the president and the secretary knew about the assailant’s behavior but failed to act.

The work environment, she said, changed after that. It became negative and unhealthy for her, so Flint left under a constructive discharge — she felt forced to quit because of unbearable conditions set up by her employer.

Soon Flint filed suit.

In her lawsuit, Flint alleged nine claims for relief, including negligent hiring, negligent training, supervision, assault, tortious constructive discharge and more.

Franktown, however, moved to dismiss the claim, alleging Flint failed to state a claim for relief because her injury was work-related. Under the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (NIIA), it argued, she had exclusive legal remedy.

The district court dismissed Flint’s complaint.

In appellate court, Flint argued that the district court had erred in applying the NIIA exclusive remedy.

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She said the NIIA does not bar her negligence or tort claims against Franktown, because the facility never established it procured workers’ compensation coverage for the incident.

Further, Flint said her injuries were caused from an intentional act, not accidentally as the NIIA statute requires.

She also went on to reiterate she left under constructive discharge.

The court, upon review, agreed with the district, and said Flint’s claims of negligence and intentional tort were rightly dismissed. The NIIA provides Flint exclusive remedy, and Franktown had immunity for liability under it. Further, Flint did not allege in her original complaint that Franktown deliberately intended to injure her.

But, it said, the NIIA would not bar Flint’s claim for relief surrounding tortious constructive discharge.

Scorecard: Appellate court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Flint’s claim and remanded for further proceedings.

Takeaway: For hiring employers, vetting potential employees and having a strict policy on sexual abuse can both deter incidents and increase trust between worker and employer. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]