Vandalism isn’t always employer’s responsibility

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s an important reminder that employers aren’t responsible for pre­­venting every ugly workplace incident. Just because someone vandalizes an employee’s property doesn’t mean you will be liable for creating a hostile work environment.

Recent case: Vickie, who is black, claimed that when she transferred to the CSX railroad’s Rocky Mount terminal, it quickly became apparent her new supervisor didn’t want her there. The two had several run-ins over scheduling and directions.

Shortly afterward, Vickie’s car was graffiti-tagged with racial slurs and a mannequin head painted black with a rope around its neck was placed on her back seat.

Vickie sued and a jury said CSX allowed a hostile work environment to exist. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, concluding that Vickie hadn’t linked the vandalism to the supervisor. (Bennett v. CSX Transportation, No. 12-2477, 4th Cir., 2014)

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