A recent U.S. District Court decision in Gillis v. Wal-Mart highlights the question of whether an employee can bring a claim against his or her employer for hostile work environment when the underlying conduct that serves as the basis for the claim occurred outside of the workplace.
In Gillis, an employee went to see a co-worker’s private gun collection after hours during which the co-worker told the employee and her husband he could “easily pick them off with a sniper rifle.” The employee complained to the employer who responded by transferring her. The Court held that because the conduct occurred outside the workplace, was not work-related, and did not impact the employee’s work conditions, the hostile environment claim failed as a matter of law.
What is important to take away from the Gillis case is that the Court determined that the complained-of conduct was wholly unrelated to any workplace conduct that could have given rise to the hostile work environment claim. Simply because the conduct between employees occurs after working hours or away from the workplace, however, does not mean that it will automatically be inapplicable to a hostile work environment claim. In fact, certain conduct between employees may very well serve as the basis for a hostile work environment claim even though it occurs away from the employer’s place of business or after work hours. Moreover, incidents that occur away from the workplace may contribute to or corroborate other incidents that occur in the workplace. This applies equally to race discrimination, gender discrimination, national origin discrimination, or any other type of hostile work environment claim.
At the end of the day, if you believe that you are the target of a hostile work environment, whether the underlying conduct is based on conduct occurring inside or outside of the workplace, call the employment attorneys at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm for a free consultation today. If you have been fired, discriminated against, denied wages, or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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