One of the most memorable hostile-work-environment facts encountered in a recent published federal opinion: The manager - who has a history of physically threatening the plaintiff - rips off his shirt at work and tells the employee, "You don't know who you are talking to. See these scars. I was shot and was in jail." The Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment in an ADEA and Title VII harassment case.
A jury finds that a promising woman neurosurgeon was bumped off-track by a campaign of sex harassment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII and Massachusettes civil rights law. The First Circuit affirms awards of $600,000 against the Hospital in compensatory damages on the retaliation claim and $1,000,000 in compensatory damages against it on the hostile work environment claim (with lesser awards for other state law claims), and $1,352,525.94 in attorneys' fees.
The management decision in this case not to separate an employee with a sex-harassment complaint from the alleged harasser (who was also the employee's supervisor) puts the employer in a vice - it now faces a trial for both sex harassment and retaliatory harassment under Title VII and Puerto Rican law. The First Circuit specifically recognizes that a supervisor who ratchets up work and otherwise intensifies harassment against an employee for refusing to yield to sexual demands may create a new claim for retaliation.
We don't see too many published Title VII appeals concerning quid pro quo/"tangible employment action" sex harassment - claims that a harasser used his supervisory authority to punish the employee in some way for not submitting to demands for sex - but the Fourth Circuit issued such a decision yesterday. On slightly different reasoning, the panel majority and concurring judge agree that the case should be remanded for a trial on that theory, as well as straight hostile-work-environment and retaliation claims.
An EEOC charge, the essential first step to filing a Title VII (or ADEA or ADA) case, must characteristically include the basic information that makes up the employee's allegations against the employer. Regrettably, many employees stumble at this stage because they do not have an attorney. But a panel of the Sixth Circuit, dividing 2-1, holds that a bare-bones charge and accompanying "charge information form" was sufficient.
In a race harassment case, the Seventh Circuit recognizes that innocent-appearing media can be used in a hostile context to perpetuate abuse of racial minorities by insinuation. It finds in this case, though, that the publication - a book titled THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER MEETS THE MONKEY - was not being used for a racially-hostile purpose.
The First Circuit affirms a Title VII/Puerto Rican law verdict for the plaintiff, though remitting the award from $800,000 to nearly $450,000. The holding demonstrates that a half-hearted management response to sex harassment complaints can be as bad as no response at all.
Though you won't find this in the official advance sheets (it is officially non-precedential), it is nice to see yet another case holding that a sexually-hostile work environment may violate Title VII, even if it is not targeted at a particular female employee.
Hats off to the EEOC for persuading the Fourth Circuit to remand, for a trial, a claim that a manufacturer did not act quickly enough in 2005-06 to protect African-American assembly plant employees from a racially hostile environment. The court affirms judgment for the employer, on the other hand, on claims after that period when the employer picked up the pace and started disciplining and (in one case) firing the offenders.
In an unpublished decision issued today, the Tenth Circuit remands for trial the Title VII claim of a fired certified medication aide (CMA), who alleged that she was sexually harassed by a resident. The panel holds that there were genuine issues of material fact about whether the behavior was "severe or pervasive," and whether the employer did all it reasonably could to prevent the harassing behavior.