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‘Cold shoulder’ isn’t a hostile environment

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

One of the reasons employees can claim sex discrimination is if, according to the EEOC, “verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature … creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

Employees may believe that the slightest unkind word would constitute a hostile workplace, but courts often will set the bar much higher, as the following ruling shows.

Recent case: Tracy Steinhauser, a sales rep at a Texas radio station, felt threatened when a new supervisor was brought in. She felt the new boss gave her the “cold shoulder” and paid more attention to male subordinates.

She sued, alleging a hostile environment and sex discrimination. Steinhauser admitted that the supervisor never made any derogatory remarks directed at her or other women. Plus, there was no apparent difference in how men or women were assigned work.

The court dismissed the case, saying its job was not to serve as the station’s HR department. (Steinhauser v. KETK, No. 9:09-CV-49, ED TX, 2010)

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