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Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., No. 13-1473 (4th Cir., May 7, 2015

Articles Discussing Case:

New Harassment and Retaliation Standard in Fourth Circuit

Nexsen Pruet • June 25, 2015
Last month, in Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., No. 13-1473 (4th Cir. May 7, 2015), the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes North and South Carolina, articulated a new standard for analyzing claims of hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII. For employers, the new standard may prove challenging in some respects but may also serve as a call to action.

Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation in the Fourth Circuit, Part II: Recent Decisions Create New Challenges for Employers

Ogletree Deakins • June 08, 2015
Part one of this two-part series discussed the first of two significant rulings issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in May of 2015. The first part focused on Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corporation, No. 13-473 (May 7, 2015), in which the Fourth Circuit overruled existing precedent and concluded that an isolated incident of harassment was severe enough to create a hostile work environment. Part two focuses on Foster v. University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, No. 14-1073 (May 21, 2015), in which the Fourth Circuit rejected an argument that the Supreme Court of the United States in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar intended to create a “heightened causation standard” for retaliation claims brought under the burden-shifting McDonnell Douglas framework.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Hostile Work Environment Can Be Created With A Single Racial Epithet

FordHarrison LLP • May 20, 2015
Despite consistent direction from the United States Supreme Court that courts should look at "all the circumstances" in determining whether a workplace environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive to give rise to an actionable claim of harassment, see, e.g., Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (1998), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a supervisor who called an African-American employee a "porch monkey" twice in a 24–hour period transformed the workplace into a racially hostile environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The decision, Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corporation (4th Cir. 2015), not only concludes that a hostile environment can be created by a single offensive utterance but also that an employee who reports such offensive speech to management is protected from retaliation so long as the employee reasonably believes the conduct was in violation of Title VII.

What Constitutes Harassment? Impact of New Law

Goldberg Segalla LLP • May 18, 2015
Retaliation and harassment are the most commonly filed employment law claims nationwide. After the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in Boyer-Liberto v. Fountainbleau Corp., No. 13-1473 (4th Cir. May 7, 2015) lawsuits alleging hostile work environment and harassment will only be more difficult for employers to dispose of. The Fourth Circuit held that a single instance of harassment may create an actionable hostile work environment claim, and that an employee can be protected from retaliation when complaining about harassment, even if the purported harassment is ultimately not severe enough to create a hostile work environment.

Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation Claims Harder to Defend After Fourth Circuit Ruling

Goldberg Segalla LLP • May 15, 2015
Last week’s decision by the Fourth Circuit in Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., No. 13-1473 (4th Cir., May 7, 2015) now means that in the Fourth Circuit, a single instance of harassment may create an actionable hostile work environment claim, and that an employee can be protected from retaliation when complaining about harassment, even if the purported harassment is ultimately not severe enough to create a hostile work environment. The Fourth Circuit’s decision to overturn summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer signals an uphill battle for employers’ attempting to obtain summary judgment on matters where hostile work environment is alleged. The standard for a viable hostile work environment or harassment claim under Title VII is that the conduct at issue is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the plaintiff’s terms and conditions of employment, thus resulting in an abusive environment. Single incidents, stray comments, or isolated utterances have long been held insufficient to meet the standard. The Fourth Circuit deviated from this standard when it found that an isolated racial slur by a supervisor was sufficient, by itself, to allow both a hostile work environment and retaliation claim to proceed to trial.