Second Circuit: Court Clarifies Behavior Contributing to Hostile Work Environment


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March 6, 2020


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In Ramsy v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., the Second Circuit court clarified that an employee need not prove there was direct physical contact or threats in order to demonstrate that a hostile work environment exists.

In this case, an employee reported alleged co-worker misconduct to his employer’s human resources.  As a result, he began to suffer racial, ethnic, and religious slurs from other employees.  This included discriminatory remarks from the employee’s union steward that, while not specifically targeted at him, were vocalized with the intention for him to overhear the comments.  The employee complained about the harassment and was later terminated for supposedly getting into an altercation at work.

The Second Circuit noted that different factors must be considered in totality when evaluating a harassment claim, including the severity and frequency of the discriminatory conduct (in this case, remarks about the employee’s race, ethnicity, and religion), among other factors.  Discriminatory comments made in the presence of, but not directly aimed at, the employee contributed to the hostile work environment.  Additionally, physical assault is not a prerequisite to determining that there is a hostile work environment.  In this case, the employee complained of numerous incidents of discrimination over the course of three years, with repeated and unanswered complaints to the company’s management.

Action Items

  1. Ensure managers are trained on responding to unprofessional and harassing conduct in the workplace.
  2. Best practice is to have all employees trained in harassment prevention.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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