A federal judge has thrown out a sexual harassment suit brought against Jonathan Dunning, CEO of Birmingham Health care by an employee Sharon Waltz.

Sharon Waltz filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission in 2012

In her court petition filed with EOC, Waltz describes herself as a victim of sexual harassment in the work place and had placed allegations against Dunning, her married boss. The two were in a liaison that lasted over a decade, spanning over five states and involved their two children and two companies.

Chief US Magistrate Judge John E. Ott observed that the relation lasted too long before a complaint was lodged by Jennifer Waltz. According to the judge, the relationship between Waltz and Dunning, whose conduct may not have been welcoming to Waltz at the start of the relationship, went on to become consensual over the years.

Waltz claimed that Dunning made inappropriate remarks at work and made advances to her which she resisted but finally gave in one night at the office in March 2003, where they had returned to after a dinner date. She considered this as an assault and was afraid to speak about it for more than nine years, until June 2012 because she was afraid of losing her job.

Judge Ott questioned why Waltz worked with Dunning for six years at the community health center at Birmingham without revealing or complaining about their relationship to anyone. After that she worked at a private company named Synergy with Dunning where she faced the same situation. So they both obtained another job at the same place?

Judge tosses suit on the rationale that their partnership was not “unwelcome”

The judge said he did not have much choice regarding the dismissal of the suit as the relationship sired two children together in 2005 and 2007 and therefore could hardly be considered as ‘unwelcome’.

Allegations by Waltz of forced encounters, harassment, and threats of losing her job were countered by the judge with videos of Dunning and Waltz at the beach, zoo, and Disney World with their children.

Dunning’s sexual harassment attorney said that he found the lawsuit baseless with facts to support the allegations in ‘short supply’. The only thing that the lawsuit had accomplished was defamation of his image while there was no evidence to show that Dunning has broken the law.

Sexual harassment attorney for Waltz, Bill Bright said he is not sure if the judge’s ruling will be appealed. Three employees of Birmingham Health Care have been indicted on combined charges on 97 counts that include mail fraud, bank fraud, and unpaid income taxes amounting to $14 million. The indicted include its CFO, Terri Mollica.

Waltz, a clinical psychologist, worked as a grant writer at BHC drawing a five figure salary of $95,774, in 2008. Dunning received a salary of $290,003 the same year.

The changing face of sexual harassment laws

The outcome of the suit highlights the need to streamline the reviewing of cases related to sexual harassment. Many legal experts have pressed for changes in the law where independent bodies can review these suits before they enter the courts and become public record to protect the name of the defendant.