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Corrections Officer Wins $1.48 Million In Damages

Richard Dixson has been employed by the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) since 1995 and has worked at its Kansas City Reentry Center since 1998. When Dixson first started working for the DOC, he was a Corrections Officer 1, or prison guard. He was promoted to Corrections Classifications Assistant, a position that helped offenders find jobs, complete job applications, and operate in the community. Eventually, his position was reclassified…

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When Is Harassing Conduct ‘Severe’ Enough?

Kevin Perry worked as a corrections officer for the Westchester County Department of Corrections in New York. Perry was assigned to the DOC’s booking unit, and Captain Robert Slensby was one of his supervisors. In July 2014, Perry completed a medical leave and returned to work at the DOC. Perry testified that on July 22, 2014, he was in jail booking with Slensby when Slensby placed his hands on…

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Medic’s Treatment Does Not Rise To Level Of Sex-Based Harassment

Kiesha Cheatham was hired as a DeKalb County Fire Rescue Fire Medic in 2008. On October 16, 2012, Cheatham was eating dinner at a fire station with Christopher Roberts, her co-worker, when she noticed Roberts experiencing an allergic reaction to onions in their dinner. Captain Matthew Robinson and Captain James Damico were also present during the incident. Captain Robinson and EMT Michael Gales –who entered the room while Roberts…

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‘Classic Stray Remark’ Cannot Support Discrimination Claim

There is a definite disconnect between the perception of sexual harassment law and what the current state of the law actually is. Many believe that overtly racist or sexist workplace comments easily support Title VII harassment claims. Owing to a number of Supreme Court decisions narrowing the law considerably, that belief is rarely accurate. A recent case out of Ithaca, New York illustrates this principle. Mark Hassan, of Middle…

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Gender Stereotyping Can Be Basis For Lawsuit

As things currently stand in a volatile area of the law, sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However, any number of courts have held that “gender stereotyping” is prohibited by Title VII, and the two concepts often overlap. A good case in point involves a Title VII lawsuit brought by Angela Roadcloud, a corrections sergeant for the City of Philadelphia. Roadcloud is…

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Pattern Of Racist Comments Can Be Basis For Harassment Claim

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for employees to win claims of harassment based upon the racist or sexist statements of fellow employees or supervisors. Courts have routinely ruled that one statement, even if completely offensive, cannot be the basis for a lawsuit, and even that multiple statements over a period of time cannot provide the necessary foundation for a harassment claim. A lawsuit brought by five…

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Connecticut Court Adopts Strict Rule For Harassment Arbitrations

Most state courts in the country follow the approach of the Supreme Court in Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America, District 17, 531 U.S. 57 (2000), and will uphold an arbitrator’s opinion reinstating a terminated employee unless there is a well-defined public policy expressed through state law that prohibits reinstatement. Connecticut’s courts take a different approach, and look much more to whether the employee’s conduct…

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‘Slave For A Day’ Comment Does Not Establish Harassment

In October 2009, when Atoya Alexander was a probationary officer with the New York Police Department, she alleged that Sergeant Leroy, her supervisor in the Conditions Squad of the 5th Precinct, openly announced that he was going to make someone his “slave for the day.” Alexander took this comment “personally since she was the only African-American in the room.” Alexander complained about this incident to Lieutenant Gatto, who neither…

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Racial Language And Racial Harassment

Zerlean Cooper, an African-American, worked for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. On October 5, 2005, a Ms. Sanchez (who was an ex-felon) visited the prison and called another lieutenant to complain that Cooper would not let Sanchez’s children enter the prison. Sanchez had not followed the appropriate procedure. Sanchez used the term “nigger” twice while referring to Cooper during the call. Neither the lieutenant nor any other…

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The High Bar For Harassment Cases

Owing largely to a series of decisions from the United States Supreme Court over the last ten years, it has become increasingly difficult for employees to bring successful race or sex harassments lawsuits. Though there are several threads of the Supreme Court’s decisions that have produced the significant drop in successful harassment lawsuits, one of the most important principles is that even conduct that is explicitly based on race…

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Court Allows Hostile Work Environment Claim To Proceed

In the wake of a series of Supreme Court decisions tightening up the standard as to what amounts to racial or sexual harassment, it has been more and more difficult for public safety officers to successfully bring harassment claims. And so it was a bit of a surprise to see one of the more conservative courts in the country, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, reverse the dismissal…

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City Loses ‘Public Policy’ Challenge To Arbitrator’s Opinion Reinstating Fire Inspector

As the previous article indicates, the “public policy” exception to the finality of arbitrator’s opinions is a narrow one, and is usually unsuccessful. A recent case involving the San Jose Fire Department illustrates the narrow scope of the exception. The case involved Michael Baldwin, a fire inspector. In April 2008, a co-worker complained about Baldwin’s inappropriate behavior toward herself and other female employees, prompting an investigation by the City….

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No First Amendment Right To Complain About Dissatisfaction With Job

Daniel Prince is a deputy sheriff who works for the Monroe County, New York Sheriff’s Department. Prince filed a federal court lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against for raising claims of on-the-job harassment. In particular, Prince alleged that a sergeant referred to him as a “mother fucker, little bitch, pussy-ass bitch, faggot, and a whining little fag.” A federal court dismissed the lawsuit. Quoting from a Supreme Court…

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