Generally, in order to establish a claim for hostile-environment based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a plaintiff must prove (1) that the harassment was unwelcome, (2) that the harassment was based on sex, (3) that the harassing conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment,” and (4) that either (a) the harassment was committed by a supervisor, or (b) the employer, through its agents or supervisory personnel, knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
Employers often attack the third element, arguing that what the plaintiff went through simply was not bad enough– that it was not “severe or pervasive” enough to make them liable. However, as the employment law attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm know, sometimes several “petty” incidents can add up to a hostile work environment claim.
Such was the case in Hall v. City of Chicago. The Plaintiff, Anna Hall was a female plumber working in the House Drain Inspectors Division of Chicago’s Department of Sewers, in which she was the only female. Hall sued the city, alleging that because her supervisor assigned her menial work, prohibited her coworkers from interacting with her, and made statements to her co-workers about her such as “[I] ought to slap that woman sitting out there,” “I could slap that woman and get a promotion,” and “[I] ought to go postal on that woman,” that he had created a hostile work environment based on Hall’s gender. The City argued that none of the supervisor’s conduct, viewed individually, was objectionable, carving out each alleged act of discrimination and explaining why it was neither severe nor pervasive, and the district court agreed, granting summary judgment for the City.
Hall appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed. Noting that Courts must look at claims of gender discrimination under a “totality of the circumstances” approach, the Court concluded that when everything Hall’s supervisor did to her was added up, she could make out a claim for a hostile work environment based on her gender. Now, the City will have to try and convince a jury, some of which will be women, that the supervisor in question did not discriminate against “that woman.”
Of course, following the appellate court’s decision, and facing the prospect trying their justification on that jury, the City will finally get serious about settling the case.
If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your gender or sex, then call the right attorney. It is never appropriate to discriminate against female employees. Discrimination against women includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744, you will meet with an attorney from The Spitz Law Firm to discuss wrongful discrimination claims and help you determine the best way to pursue your gender/sex discrimination claims.
The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to gender discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm or any individual attorney.