Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tenth Circuit: Focus on Effect of Allegedly Discriminatory Comments, Not Intent

Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP, Lexology

Reversing summary judgment in favor of an employer, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals instructed courts to focus on the "polluting effect on the workplace environment" of allegedly discriminatory conduct and not the intent behind it. The only African-American employee in her office, the plaintiff claimed that during her yearlong tenure she was subject to racial harassment in the form of comments such as a coworker who stated "we need to bring back lynching," her supervisor instructing her to "get ghetto," and use of the "n word" by multiple employees. When she was fired for excessive absences, the worker sued. A federal court judge dismissed her hostile work environment claims but the federal appellate panel reversed, finding that the lower court incorrectly focused on the intent of the speakers and whether they meant to cause harm. The appropriate inquiry was whether a jury could find the effect of the alleged harassment resulted in a hostile work environment, the Tenth Circuit said, reinstating the employee's claim.

Read the story here.

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