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Total Articles: 6

Non-employee’s racial bias may lead to liability for employer.

Most – if not all – employers are aware that both federal and state laws preclude employment discrimination based upon the race or national origin of an employee, and know that illegal activity can include both discriminatory actions and biased statements. Most employers, however, are unaware that certain of those laws also preclude discrimination by a customer, client, or patient of an employer against an employee.

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

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.

Why Would Employees Tease About Nooses In 2013?

It was surprising and disappointing to read about a punitive damages award against a North Carolina employer who allegedly tolerated employees referring to an African-American coworker as a “coon” and offering him a hangman’s noose. It’s 2013, not 1960.

"If They Hate You, They Must Hate Me Too"

On February 9, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit addressed the issue of whether alleged harassment toward African-American employees could support the claim that there was a hostile work environment for two Hispanic employees. The court concluded it could not in the particular case before it, stating that "if the evidence of the workplace environment for the employees of plaintiff's race does not show frequent, severe and pervasive hostility, then evidence of hostility towards a different racial group is not much support for the plaintiff's claim."

Race-Based Comment Found Not To Be "Hostile".

A federal appellate court recently held that an employee who claimed he was subjected to 14 months of racially-motivated comments cannot succeed on his Title VII racial harassment claim. According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the case must be dismissed because the alleged behavior was not "severe and pervasive" and the employee failed to adequately pursue his complaint with his supervisors.

Company’s Prompt Reaction to Noose Precludes Liability for Racial Discrimination.

When an individual claims to have been racially harassed by co-workers, he or she must show that the employer was negligent either in discovering or remedying the harassment. An employer can avoid liability for co-worker harassment if it takes prompt and appropriate remedial action that is likely to prevent the harassment from recurring. Recently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals analyzed specific actions taken by a company after a noose was found hanging in a workplace, and found those actions to have been sufficient to uphold summary judgment in the company’s favor.