‘Disrespect’ Does Not Equal ‘Hostile Work Environment’

Keith Armstrong, who is African-American, was a Jersey City police officer. Armstrong had no serious complaints with the Department or his supervisors until the internal affairs unit of the Department began investigating difficulties he was having with his neighbors. From 1996 to 2006, the Department had received 28 complaints from citizens about Armstrong. Most of the complaints were from Armstrong’s Jersey City neighbors, who were also African-American. The neighbors…

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No Hostile Work Environment Where ‘Harsh And Rude’ Boss Treats All Employees The Same

Some employees believe that a lawsuit exists simply because an employer maintains a “hostile work environment.” That notion is far too sweeping, though. What the law prohibits – and more specifically what Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits – is a hostile work environment based upon the victim’s presence in a protected class such as race or gender. Simply because a boss may be abusive is not…

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Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Case Against Sheriff Heading To Trial

Toni Duncan, a corrections deputy for Dakota County, Nebraska, sued the County for hostile work environment sexual harassment. The County sought summary judgment in the case, arguing that Duncan’s evidence was insufficient to allow the case to go to trial. In opposing summary judgment, Duncan testified that rumors of sexual activity permeated the job. She further stated that on her first day of employment, the Chief Deputy warned her…

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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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Firefighter Gay Pride Verdict Upheld

The annual San Diego Pride Parade is a celebration of the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. Four members of the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department – John Ghiotto, Chad Allison, Jason Hewitt and Alexander Kane – were given a direct order to participate in the Pride Parade against their will. After being forced to participate in the Pride Parade, the firefighters filed a lawsuit against the…

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Corrections Officer Successfully States Sexual Harassment Claim

Owing chiefly to several decisions of the United States Supreme Court, it has become extremely difficult for employees to successfully bring sexual harassment lawsuits. Recent estimates are that employees lose approximately 95% of sexual harassment claims brought in federal court. These results are largely the product of case law that requires harassing conduct to be “severe and pervasive,” and not “simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents.” A case…

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‘Crazy Woman with a Gun’ Does Not Have Sexual Harassment Claim

Tammy Schweitzer was an investigator with the Ventura County, California District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation. Eleven months into the job, Schweitzer resigned and sued the County, claiming she was the victim of sexual harassment (among other things). When a trial court ruled in the County’s favor and dismissed Schweitzer’s lawsuit, the case wound up in the California Court of Appeals. The Court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit….

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Victims Not Entitled To Union Representation During Meeting

Melissa Forsette and Jill Foley are police officers with the City of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Their labor organization, Lodge 2 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), filed a grievance on their behalf alleging a hostile work environment. In particular, the FOP alleged that the Police Chief had referred to Forsette and Foley as being “whores” for requesting the same overtime work opportunities as their male counterparts. Raymond Hayes, the…

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Reference To ‘Psycho-Bitch’ Can Support Claim For Sexual Harassment

Gina DiPasquale was a corrections officer with the State of New Jersey Department of Corrections. In 2001, DiPasquale became a permanent instructor in the Correctional Staff Training Academy. In January 2002, female recruits complained to DiPasquale that male instructors embarrassed, bullied and demeaned them because they could not keep up in physical training sessions. DiPasquale reported to her supervisor that male instructors were pushing female recruits to the point…

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Sexual Harassment Too Old To Be ‘Continuing’

Genevieve Drees has served both as a dispatcher and a detention employee for Suffolk County, New York. Drees brought a sex discrimination lawsuit against the County, contending that she was the victim of gender-based hostile work environment harassment, and that she had been retaliated against for raising a harassment issue. A federal court dismissed the first of the claims, finding the allegations barred by the statute of limitations. Drees…

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Court Reinstates Sergeant’s Demotion

A clear example of a difference between appealing discipline through a civil service system and appealing discipline through arbitration can be found in a recent case involving Santa Cruz County, California. When discipline is appealed through arbitration, court review is extremely limited, and typically focusing only on whether the arbitrator exceeded his or her jurisdiction in issuing an opinion. It is extremely rare for an arbitrator’s disciplinary opinion to…

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Firefighter Case Illustrates High Standards For Harassment Complaints

The high bar set by the burden of proof for racial and sexual harassment claims is one of the reasons that most harassment lawsuits fail. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, to make a claim of racial harassment, an employee must show that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment. If conduct…

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Conduct That Is “Juvenile And Boorish” Does Not Amount To A Hostile Work Environment

Not a month goes by without the release of several new court decisions emphasizing the changed rules under which federal courts evaluate sexual harassment cases. Owing largely to two Supreme Court decisions, courts now routinely reject sexual harassment lawsuits that ten years ago might well have been the basis for holding employers liable for considerable damages. A good example is the lawsuit brought by Tina Dodd, a police officer…

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