Articles Posted in Racial Discrimination

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file0001329734681Have you ever had to deal with an unpleasant person at work? When does the inappropriate conduct of someone at work rise to a civil rights violation by your employer? A recent decision by the Fourth Circuit may help answer these questions. The Fourth Circuit upheld racial and sexual hostile work environment claims in Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corporation on April 29, 2014.

Lori Freeman, former employee of Dal-Tile, sued her former employer after enduring months of mistreatment from a sales representative from one of the company’s main clients.

In June 2008, Dal-Tile bought a stone yard called Marble Point in Raleigh, North Carolina, formerly owned by Marco Izzi. The yard was incorporated into Dal-Tile as a sale-service organization, and Izzi purchased ownership in VoStone, Inc., a Raleigh kitchen/bath remodeling center that became a significant client of Dal-Tile and major source of revenue.

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file000495587744Do you think that the Fourth Circuit got it wrong when it decided against an employee who was called a “porch monkey” more than once by a coworker and was fired from her job shortly after she complained?   You are certainly not alone.  Ms. Boyer-Liberto’s complaints about the racists did not give rise to a claim for a hostile work environment or employment discrimination according to the Fourth Circuit, but you may see the Fourth Circuit change or limit that opinion.

The Fourth Circuit on Tuesday, July 1, granted en banc hearing to Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp., marking a potential shift in the way the Fourth Circuit analyzes employment discrimination claims. What this means is that both sides will reargue the case, but this time they will do so in front of all eligible judges of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Many appellate courts sit in parts or divisions of three or more judges from among a larger number on the full court.  The Fourth Circuit is no exception.  That’s why only three judges (Chief Judge Traxler and Judges Neimeyer and Shed)  heard and decided the original case.  When a court sits en banc it is possible that it will reach a different decision from the original 3-member panel. It is common for parties to ask for a rehearing en banc after an appellate court renders a decision; however, they are rarely granted.  When a court does grant a rehearing en banc, it means that one of the following situations are in play:

  1. A material (potentially outcome changing) fact or legal issue was overlooked in the decision;
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On Friday, we discussed the recent discrimination case at arising from employment at a hotel bar between Reya Boyer-Liberto and her former employer, the Fontainebleau Corporation. We move on today to what we can learn from this case of racial language used in the service industry.

What the Case Teaches Us:

In dropping Liberto’s case, the Fourth Circuit was essentially saying that, even assuming everything that Liberto alleged was true, the conduct she faced did not amount to a hostile work environment while she had been employed by Berger.

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openphotonet_129_2966_IMG_(1024_x_768)Have you ever wondered how bad your working conditions have to become your work is a “hostile work environment?”  A recent case may help you decide whether you’re in a position to take legal action.

Reya Boyer-Liberto, an African-American woman, sued the Fontainebleu Corporation and her boss Leonard Berger for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.  Liberto alleged that her former employer discriminated against her by allowing a hostile work environment to persist at the hotel where she worked because a coworker yelled at her and called her a “porch monkey” twice within a two-day period.

Despite recognizing the racial slurs as unacceptable, the Fourth Circuit held that Liberto’s coworker’s conduct was too isolated to constitute a hostile work environment, reasoning that a two-day period of racial comments, relating to one altercation, was not sufficiently “severe” or “pervasive” to change a term or condition of her employment or create an abusive workplace atmosphere.