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Total Articles: 10

Ostracism and petty mistreatments may collectively rise to the level of hostile work environment.

A female plumber on “light duty” in the City of Chicago’s Department of Sewers filed a lawsuit alleging that because she was female, her supervisor assigned menial work to her, prohibited her coworkers from interacting with her, and subjected her to alleged “verbal violence.” While the district court viewed each of those actions individually and found that none constituted hostile work environment under Title VII, the7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s summary judgment in favor of the City, and determined that the case should move forward to trial, on the basis that a jury could find that the collective treatment could rise to the level of hostile environment. Anna M. Hall v. City of Chicago, 7th Cir., No. 11-3279, March 29, 2013.

Seventh Circuit Reaffirms that Use of Gender-Specific Term Does Not Automatically Constitute Harassment

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed earlier decisions holding that the use of gender-specific terms (e.g., “bitch”) in the workplace does not automatically constitute harassment. Instead, the use of such words in the workplace must be viewed in context—and only supports a sexual harassment claim if there is evidence that it was used in a hostile manner to demean someone based on, or because of, his or her sex.

Hostile Work Environment Can Be Based On A Single Bad Act

A federal appellate court recently held that a jury must determine whe-ther a single act is sufficient to support a worker's hostile work environment claim. According to the court, "a single act can create a hostile environment if it is severe enough . . ., and instances of uninvited physical contact with intimate parts of the body are among the most severe types of sexual harassment." Berry v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 07-2288, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (August 23, 2010).

Actionable Hostile Work Environment Can Be Based Upon a Single Action.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it is up to a jury to determine whether, in fact, a single instance of uninvited intimate physical contact may be sufficient to support a claim of hostile work environment. Berry v. Chicago Transit Authority, 7th Cir., No. 07-2288, August 23, 2010.

Actionable hostile work environment can be based upon a single action.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it is up to a jury to determine whether, in fact, a single instance of uninvited intimate physical contact may be sufficient to support a claim of hostile work environment

Threatening Language May Support Claim of Hostile Environment, Even Without Sexual References.

For the second time in as many weeks, a federal appeals court decision rests on the determination that an alleged harasser who makes gender-specific slurs and comments can create a hostile work environment for a female employee, even though the harasser is an “Equal Opportunity Harasser” who makes crass and offensive remarks to “everyone, regardless of gender.” Sharon Kaytor v. Electric Boat Corp., 2d Circ., No. 09-1859-cv, June 29, 2010.

Threatening language may support claim of hostile environment, even without sexual references.

For the second time in as many weeks, a federal appeals court decision rests on the determination that an alleged harasser who makes gender-specific slurs and comments can create a hostile work environment for a female employee, even though the harasser is an “Equal Opportunity Harasser” who makes crass and offensive remarks to “everyone, regardless of gender.”

Equal Opportunity Harasser’s Use of Female-Specific Slurs and Remarks Can Support Claim of Hostile Work Environment.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that an alleged harasser who makes gender-specific slurs and comments can create a hostile work environment for a female employee, even though the harasser is an “Equal Opportunity Harasser” who makes sexually offensive remarks to “anybody, any time.”

Equal Opportunity Harasser's use of female-specific slurs and remarks can support claim of hostile work environment.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that an alleged harasser who makes gender-specific slurs and comments can create a hostile work environment for a female employee, even though the harasser is an “Equal Opportunity Harasser” who makes sexually offensive remarks to “anybody, any time.” EEOC v. Fairbrook Medical Clinic, P.A., 4th Circ., No. 09-1610, June 18, 2010.

Conduct Not Directed at Plaintiff May Support Claim of Hostile Environment.

In order to successfully support a claim of hostile work environment under Title VII, an employee must show that the offending conduct was “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment.” One federal appellate court recently held that offensive conduct not witnessed by an individual may still contribute to that individual’s claim that a workplace environment was hostile, and should be admitted as part of the employee’s Title VII lawsuit.