In April of 2008, the Western District Court in Kentucky decided a case which involved a gender based hostile work environment claim. In that case, the facts were as follows. A woman, Ms. Parker worked in a pediatric medical care facility. In December of 2003, at the Christmas party, Ms. Parker was given a gift card to a local adult store as a ‘gag gift’. (See Parker v. Pediatric Acute Care, P.S.C., 2008 WL 746677 (Ky.App.)). Prior to getting the gift, Ms. Parker had gotten wind of it and went to her bosses and told them about it and to stop it because it would embarrass her at the party. Id. They did not and she got the gift. Id. Then, 5 months later, Ms. Parker was fired after working for defendants for over 20 years. In response, Ms. Parker sued in state court and alleged a sexually hostile work environment and retaliatory discharge. Id. The trial court dismissed her case and thus she appealed. Id.
The Kentucky Federal Court sustained the lower trial court’s rulings. It did so for the following reasons. It agreed that the one time, boorish behavior at the Christmas party was not harassment that was severe and/or pervasive and thus not enough for a hostile work environment claim. Id. In order to establish a prima facie claim for hostile environment and sexual harassment by a co-worker, a plaintiff must show, 1) she was a member of the protected class, 2) she was subjected to unwelcome harassment, 3) the harassment was based upon gender, 4) the harassment unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created a hostile or offensive work environment that was severe and pervasive, and 5) some basis exists for imputing liability to the employer.” Id.
The court stated that “courts have made it clear that an isolated incident, boorish behavior or mere utterance is not sufficient to demonstrate a hostile work environment.” Id. There is a difference between harassing and merely objectionable conduct. Id.
The hostile work environment must be both objectively and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so. (cites omitted). The court went on to discuss the totality of the circumstances evaluation and how you have to look at the frequency, severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance, and whether it unreasonably interfered with an employee’s work performance. Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment. (cites omitted).
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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