The Seventh Circuit's opinion contains useful guidance for employees suffering disability discrimination and harassment. One key takeaway: plaintiffs should not be quick to assume - in charging, pleading and proving a hostile-work-environment claim - that harassment always constitutes one continuing violation. "[A] substantial passage of time without incident known to the employer, a change in the employee's supervisors, [or] an intervening remedial action by the employer" may break the chain.
Although it is a commonplace that employers do not violate Title VII simply by shortcutting their own internal disciplinary systems, that is not necessarily the case if the disciplinary proceeding itself is motivated in part by gender or racial stereotypes. Today, the Second Circuit holds that a coach stated a plausible claim that his employer relied on "invidious stereotypes and credit[ed] malicious accusations" while investigating a Title IX harassment complaint filed against him by a student.
The Second Circuit, in an ADEA hostile work environment and retaliation case, reminds district court judges that they are not to weigh or evaluate credibility of evidence submitted on summary judgment. Among other things, the district court forgot that "[i]t was required to disregard the contrary statements from [defendant's witnesses] that a jury would not be required to believe."
The Eighth Circuit affirms a $250,001 judgment - $1 compensatory and $250,000 punitive damages - for a black "deckhand on the Cora, a barge that dredges sand from the Arkansas River," whom a jury found suffered a racially hostile work environment caused by his foreman.
Sex harassment is often conflated with sexual misconduct, yet belittlement of and failure to cooperate with women at work - no less than sexual comments or physical grabbing - violates their rights as well. The First Circuit sends such a case back for trial, also addressing when a non-employer may be liable for retaliation.
A reminder from the Fifth Circuit: a shift transfer can be a materially adverse action for retaliation purposes. "[A] retaliatory shift change that places a substantial burden on the plaintiff, such as significant interference with outside responsibilities or drastically and objectively less desirable hours, can dissuade an employee from reporting discrimination."
As the #MeToo movement sweeps through popular culture, unseating powerhouses in industries from entertainment to politics to academia, the financial industry has been remarkably quiet. On Wall Street, complaints of sexism, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment have simmered for years, but there have been no significant personalities removed from their positions or otherwise dethroned from power.
From the schoolyard to the workplace, bullying is an epidemic. Because mistreatment and abuse of employees can result in legal action and liability, one would think lawyers and law firms would be vigilant in stopping or preventing bullying in their offices. Surveys of workers in the legal profession show otherwise.
Here's a valuable case for employees suffering harassment (and lawyers who bring such cases). The First Circuit reverses summary judgment for age-based and retaliatory hostile work environment, holding that the district court put the plaintiff to an impossible standard of specificity to prove individual incidents of harassment. It also holds that repeated threats of termination can constitute constructive discharge.