Dorothy Greer, a highly regarded black attorney who worked for the IRS, complained frequently about an anti-black, old boy network at the agency. She said co-workers and supervisors made disparaging comments about her and blacks in general.
When a temporary assignment at the White House ended, Greer sued to prevent being reassigned to the IRS, where she insisted the racially hostile environment still existed.
The court ruled that absent employees can sue for a hostile work environment. Otherwise employers would have “a perverse incentive to place on leave an employee for whom it had created a hostile environment in order to isolate itself from liability.” (Greer v. Paulson, No. 06-5155, Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, 2007)
Advice: Stamp out any harassment or discrimination that may form the basis for a hostile work environment as soon and as completely as possible. Even employees who are no longer working day to day in a hostile environment can sue for that harassment. Every federal circuit appeals court that has considered the question has sided with the absent employees on the principle that a hostile work environment may extend beyond the physical workplace.