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Showing 11 posts in Hostile Work Environment.

NY Transit Agencies Escape Vicarious Liability for Contractors Alleged Discrimination

It is not uncommon for companies to contract their daily business operations to third-party companies. In Motta et al v. Global Contact Services, Inc., the court addressed whether such relationships relieve the outsourcing company of any duties to address discrimination or harassment in the workplace. More ›

In a Win for Employees, Fourth Circuit Finds That Two Racial Slurs May Support Harassment Claim

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently made two noteworthy rulings in a single case concerning sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII. First, as it relates to sexual harassment, the Court found that two racial epithets – even if viewed as an isolated incident – may be sufficiently severe to support the existence of a hostile work environment. Second, the Court held that an employee possesses a reasonable belief of the existence of a hostile work environment – a prerequisite for a retaliation claim – if an isolated incident of harassment is physically threatening or humiliating, such as the two racial epithets at issue in this case. More ›

Same Sex Harassment is Actionable, California Court of Appeal Affirms

In Lewis v. City of Benicia, the First Appellate District affirmed once again that in California, same-sex harassment is actionable.

Brian Lewis, a volunteer and later paid intern at the City of Benecia’s water treatment plan, claimed he was sexually harassed by two male supervisors (Hickman and Lantrip) in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), that he was subject to retaliation when he complained of the harassment, and that the City was liable for failing to prevent sexual harassment. More ›

First Circuit Clarifies "Severe or Pervasive" Standard in Hostile Work Environment Claim

The employee was hired as the Area Manager for a national company and began experiencing performance problems almost immediately. She was fired less than a year after beginning her employment and subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging that she was subject to sexual harassment and was terminated in retaliation after reporting the harassment.   More ›

Unpaid Intern is not an Employee, Cannot Maintain Hostile Work Environment Claim

A broadcast and digital journalism student began working at a Chinese-language news station as an unpaid intern. As an intern, she reported directly to the bureau chief, assisted the bureau’s reporters with shooting news footage, drafted scripts, edited videos, and appeared on camera to present certain stories. The intern sought a full-time position and was told that she may be able to obtain a permanent position later if she could obtain a work visa. More ›

Employer’s Arbitration Agreement Passes Muster

In Peng v. First Republic Bank, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District rejected an employee’s contention that a company’s standard arbitration agreement was unconscionable.

Peng stands for the proposition that most boilerplate arbitration agreements contained in employment contracts will be upheld unless the employer enforces them in bad faith. For example, an employer may not unilaterally modify an agreement after an employee has filed a claim. More ›

No Anti-SLAPP Protection for Statements to Coworkers

In Cho v. Chang, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District held that an employee’s statements to coworkers about alleged discrimination were not protected activities triggering special protection under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.

The court further held that an anti-SLAPP motion can be granted as to protected activities and denied as to unprotected activities combined within the same cause of action. More ›

D.C. Circuit Upholds Large Jury Verdict in Favor of Male Sexual Harassment Victim

A prominent female lobbyist employed her former personal trainer, a Serbian immigrant, at her lobbying firm and agreed to sponsor his H-1B visa so that he could stay in the United States. Over the course of his three-year employment with the firm, the employee claimed that he was consistently harassed with sexual propositions and innuendo by his female supervisor. Although the employee rebuffed his supervisor's advances, he claimed that the supervisor attempted to control the employee’s personal life, including forbidding him from dating other women, by reminding him that his immigration status depended on her. The employee was terminated and filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation pursuant to the DC Human Rights Act. The jury awarded the employee $800,000 in damages for his sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims, and $12,000 for retaliation. On the employee's fee motion, the trial judge awarded an additional $455, 730. The employer appealed, arguing various instructional and evidentiary errors at the trial court level.  The District of Columbia Court of Appeals found those errors to be "harmless," and  firmly affirmed the judgment and award. This case serves as a reminder to employers that though the majority of sexual harassment cases involve female plaintiffs, the law applies equally to both genders. It is important to have clear anti-harassment policies in place and to ensure that employees, particularly supervisors and decision-makers, are timely trained on these policies. More ›

Employee’s ADA Claim Fails due to Inability to Establish that she was a “Qualified Individual”

An employee sued her employer claiming that she was: (1) discriminated against based upon her disability, (2) retaliated against, and (3) subjected to a hostile work environment when the employer failed to provide her with a disabled-access parking spot. The employee suffered from fibromyalgia and other health problems, which ultimately led to her taking considerable time off of work. In at least one year, she was absent for 59 percent of the time. In response to her claim, the employer indicated that the employee’s attendance was entirely unpredictable and that she rarely gave advance notice of her absences. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that the employee’s claim failed from the inception because she was unable to establish that she was a qualified disabled individual, or, more specifically, that she was able to perform the essential functions of her job. The provision of a disabled parking space was not determinative, because it was questionable whether the space would have enabled her to perform the essential functions of her job. Because being present at her workplace was an essential function, and the employee’s history of absences demonstrated that she was incapable of regularly being at work, she could not overcome this initial hurdle. The court similarly determined that the employee was unable to establish a hostile work environment or retaliation based upon the same facts. Disability discrimination claims are on the rise. Employers must ensure that their policies and practices comply with the ADA and/or corresponding state anti-discrimination laws.

Colon-Fontanez v. San Juan, No. 10-1026 (1st Cir. Oct. 12, 2011)

Fifth Circuit Recognizes “Hostile Work Environment” Claim Under the ADEA

In a matter of first impression, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer and permitted the employee to proceed with his harassment claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  More ›

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