In September of 2007, the Western District Court in Kentucky decided a case which involved a hostile work environment claim. In that case, the facts were as follows. A small group of former employees to Ann Taylor sued claiming they were discriminated against because of their national origin. (See Lescailles v. Ann Taylor Distribution Services, Inc., 2007 WL 2725972 (W.D.Ky.)). The plaintiffs complained they were being treated differently than their American counterparts. The plaintiffs and defendant had a few meetings to try to work their differences out. Unfortunately, the meetings did not help. The plaintiffs claimed they got less desirable jobs. They were not rotated to good positions. Id. That they were not allowed to work with relatives, but some Americans were, and that they were called offensive words like “stupid” or “bastard”. Id.
The Kentucky Civil Rights Act was modeled on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. To make out a hostile work environment claim, an employee must show that 1) the employee is a member of a protected class, 2) the employee was subject to unwelcome harassment, 3) the harassment was based on the employee’s protected status, 4) the harassment created a hostile work environment and 5) the employer failed to take reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior. Id. A hostile work environment exists “when the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that is sufficiently sever or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.” Id. To make out a prima facia case, plaintiffs must satisfy both an object and subjective test proving 1) that the conduct was sever or pervasive enough to create an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and 2) that a plaintiff subjectively regarded the environment as abusive. Id. On a motion for summary judgment trying to dismiss the case, the court must search for evidence about “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance, and whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. Id. “Clearly the federal and state discrimination statutes are not intended to make actionable claims of workplace disagreements or isolated objectionable comments.” Id.
“A review of many cases which discuss hostile work environment claims reveals that pervasive name-calling, threatening language, intimidating actions or insults are standard and probably required fare in every instance.” In Lescailles, the court noted that there were no ethnic or national origin based derogatory remarks or slurs; just generic ones. Id. Further the language could have been taken as ‘offensive’, but the plaintiffs were never threatened nor humiliated by such words. Id. The court then goes on to site additional cases that had shown conduct that was viable as hostile and others that did not.
And finally, the court sited to a case it decided in 2002, Wilson v. Dana Corp., 210 F.Supp.2d 867 (W.D.Ky 2002), in which it distinguished between “repugnant conduct” and conduct that rose to the level required by the standards for a hostile work environment case. Id. In that case there was evidence of racial slurs directed at those plaintiffs, but the court still dismissed the case because the allegations did not demonstrate the severity and pervasiveness needed to satisfy and support a hostile work environment claim. Id. In Wilson, the court noted that the alleged racists remarks were much less hostile than the direct, intimidating, and vicious slurs present in other cases. Id.
And thus, in conclusion, in the Lescailles case, the court held that there were no hostile remarks or slurs based on national origin and the alleged conduct fell below the level of severity and pervasiveness that this court deemed sufficient for a hostile work environment case. Id. Thus, the court dismissed the case holding there was no basis for the hostile work environment claims.
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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