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What Constitutes Harassment? Impact of New Law

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.

Is this new harassment decision the end of the world for employers?

Are harassment and retaliation lawsuits all going to the jury now? Are employers doomed? Are the plaintiffs' lawyers popping the champagne corks? Is the EEOC dancing for joy?

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

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.

Interview with a juror in Faruqi sex harassment trial

“Too long, loved the judge, didn’t believe either one of them but still think she may have been hurt, liked the firm but thought they should have done more.”

Faruqi sex harassment verdict is in! Marchuk wins, to an extent.

Law360 reports this afternoon that the jury returned a verdict for Alexandra Marchuk and against defendants Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, and partner Juan Monteverde. The jury awarded her $90,000 in actual damages, and punitive damages will be determined later. She had asked for $2 million.

Faruqi sex harassment trial: it’s a wrap!

As you may have seen, the jury in Marchuk v. Faruqi came back yesterday with a verdict for plaintiff Alexandra Marchuk, but it will not allow her to retire, nor will it even pay off her law school student loans.

Feb. 3 at Faruqi sex harassment trial: It’s up to the jury now

The sexual harassment case of Alexandra Marchuk v. Faruqi & Faruqi went to the jury late yesterday afternoon. For previous coverage of the trial, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Jan. 29 at Faruqi sex harassment trial: Your honor, please reconsider!

As expected, Law360 reports this morning that Plaintiff Alexandra Marchuk has asked Judge Alvin Hellerstein to reconsider his ruling that Nadeem Faruqi and Lubna Faruqi, co-founders of the New York law firm Faruqi & Faruqi, be dismissed from her lawsuit as individual defendants. She also requested reconsideration of the court’s decision granting judgment to the defendants on her retaliation and defamation claims. According to the report, the case is expected to go to the jury on Monday.

Jan. 28 at Faruqi sex harassment trial: The defense rests.

The defense completed its case yesterday at the trial of Alexandra Marchuk’s sexual harassment claims against the New York City law firm of Faruqi & Faruqi and partner Juan Monteverde. Prior coverage of the trial is available here, here, here, and here.

Jan. 27 at Faruqi trial: No “spoliation” of blood-stained carpet, judge says

January 27 at the Marchuk v. Faruqi sexual harassment trial: Judge Alvin Hellerstein has denied Alexandra Marchuk’s request for an adverse inference instruction based on Faruqi’s destruction of the alleged blood-stained carpet in Juan Monteverde’s office. Judge Hellerstein noted that Ms. Marchuk admitted in her trial testimony that she asked Mr. Monteverde to hide the stains. (The law firm denies that the stains were blood at all.)