Recently, in January of 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit decided a case regarding hostile work environment and race discrimination. An African American woman named Christine Ladd sued her former employer for the race based harassment and retaliatory discharge against her former employer Grand Trunk Western Railroad. (See Ladd v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad Incorporated, 442 F.3d 495 (6th Cir. 2009)).
Ms. Ladd began her employment in April of 2000 with Grand Trunk. She was twice promoted. She was the only African American woman there. She claimed a co-worker in the fall of 2004 sexually harassed her. And then in March of 2005, she claimed retaliatory discharge after she file an injury report and was subsequently fired. In her deposition, she only sited to one person, a co-worker, not superior, who made a specific race or sex based offensive remark. While at work, Ms. Ladd did hear remarks about someone being a lesbian or gay or dyke, but these comments were not directed at her. Further, Ms. Ladd testified that she did not complain about any of the remarks to anyone nor did she complain of any of the other remarks about “this being a man’s job, etc.” to any other supervisor. Though, she did complain once to a supervisor when she thought a co-worker called her a “black bitch.” This matter was immediately investigated by her supervisors and was resolved. A Louisville employment lawyer could help explain the intricacies of such a matter.
Then in March of 2005, Ms. Ladd hurt her back while at work because she claims the man who called her a black bitch, moved the truck while she was on it, causing her back pain. She reported it right away. The matter was investigated and it sent to a formal hearing to see if Ms. Ladd was lying ie. filing a false injury report, or if the man who moved the car was lying. After several witnesses testified, it was determined that Ms. Ladd was not credible and so she lost. After she lost, Ms. Ladd filed a sex discrimination charge with the EEOC based on the events that had taken place. The EEOC granted Ms. Ladd her right to sue letter and so she brought her hostile work environment claims.
There is a 5 prong test in order to make out acclaim for hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The trial court did not find that she met prong number 5, while the appellate court found that she did not meet prong number 4. Prong 4 is that the harassment created a hostile work environment, and prong 5 is employer liability. After reviewing the record, the trial court did not find that the actions alleged rose to the level of an actionable hostile work environment. It looked at the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, the severity, and whether it unreasonably interfered with her performance. Louisville employment lawyer Andrew Alitowski can help explain these tests that are used in discrimination cases.
The court also addressed her retaliation claim. The court held that she never met her burden, failing to produce any evidence that Grand Trunks’ decision for firing her was merely pre-textual. Furthermore, as far as the 4 prong test to maintain a claim for retaliation, the court did not find she meet any of the prongs.
If you have been the subject of hostile work environment, please call and speak to a Louisville employment lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew S. Alitowski at 888-ASK-ANDREW (275-2637) or contact us online. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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