Simply being able to compile a long list of complaints that a boss favors members of one protected class over another doesn’t signify a hostile work environment.
Hostility isn’t the same as discrimination. Proving it requires an affected employee to show both subjectively and objectively that she endured ridicule or worse—not just that her supervisor was unfair or even discriminated.
Recent case: Rachel, who is black, quit her job with Credit Bureau Enterprises after she didn’t get a series of promotions she wanted. She had many white co-workers over the years.
Rachel sued, alleging that she had endured a racially hostile work environment. She missed the EEOC’s 300-day filing deadline and sued instead under the less common Section of the Civil Rights Act. It allows black employees up to four years to file a lawsuit alleging race discrimination in employment.
Rachel provided the court with a long list of incidents she had endured for four years leading up to her resignation. She claimed her supervisors applied the dress code more strictly to her than to white employees. She said she did not get the same praise that white co-workers got. She also said that someone commented on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: “Congratulations! Today is the day Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. You should be happy.”
The court dismissed her lawsuit. It reasoned that none of the comments or incidents were demeaning, hostile or otherwise so offensive as to create a hostile work environment. That was especially true, since no one actually disciplined Rachel for any incidents such as the dress code violation.
The court said her environment simply hadn’t been hostile as that term is commonly understood. (Clay v. Credit Bureau Enterprises, No. 12-3207, 8th Cir., 2014)
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