Employers struggle with conduct that appears ambiguous but is interpreted by the “victim” as unlawful. The dilemma arises most often in a sexual harassment setting. For example, a co-worker comments that another’s clothes make her “look good” or that he “really likes” her perfume. Employers, and courts, struggle with the intent behind this conduct. For example, a recent case involved racial harassment allegations based in part on bananas and banana peels littering the truck of an African-American co-worker. Daily Report Online wrote about this case on its website last week.
Would such anonymous conduct support a claim for a racially hostile environment? In December 2010, in granting summary judgment to an employer, an Alabama Federal District Court said, “No.”
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