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Comments don’t always have to be overtly sexual to create hostile environment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When a supervisor constantly ridicules an employee, watch out. The worker may have a hostile work environment claim if she can tie the demeaning comments to just one or two overtly sexual ones.

Essentially, the sexual comments become the reference point for the subsequent ones.

Recent case: Esther worked at a care facility. She and her supervisor, Kenny, are both from Nigeria.

Esther claimed Kenny constantly badgered her about her body. He called her a “skeleton” who might die at work. He pulled her pants leg up to show others how thin her calves were.

But at other times, he regaled Esther and other employees with comments about how he preferred fat women for sex.

After Esther was terminated for allegedly falsifying forms, she sued, alleging she had been forced to work in a hostile environment.

She explained that Kenny had insulted her daily with talk of her being too skinny, of her husband leaving her because of her slender build and a host of other comments about her weight.

The employer argued that other than the alleged comment about preferring sex with fat versus skinny women, Kenny hadn’t made sexually hostile comments.

The court disagreed and considered all the comments in the context of Kenny’s sexually oriented comment. The case goes to trial. (Texas Department of Aging v. Iredia, No. 01-13-00469, Texas Court of Appeals, 1st District, 2014)

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