By Kathleen Jennings (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If employers did not already have enough incentives to train supervisors in the avoidance of workplace harassment claims, an additional incentive comes from a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In Daniel v. T&M Prot. Res., LLC, 2d Cir., No. 15-560-cv, (unpublished 4/25/17), the Second Circuit held that a single incident or comment, if severe enough, can give rise to employer liability under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In that case, a building security supervisor referred to Otis Daniel as “you f****** n*****,” according to court records. That comment was severe enough, said the Second Circuit. This comment was one about 20 separate incidents of harassment alleged by Daniel during his 15 months with T&M.
One can imagine other epithets directed at people based on their gender, race, national origin, or other protected categories, that may be classified as “severe” enough to rise to the level of actionable harassment. Supervisors need to be trained regularly on the types of conduct—verbal and non-verbal—that could give rise to complaints of harassment. Even one ugly epithet has the potential to cost a company a lot of money, just in the costs and legal expenses of defending a lawsuit.
Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in sexual harassment and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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