Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nichols v. Azteca Restaurant Enterprises, Inc. case brief

Nichols v. Azteca Restaurant Enterprises, Inc. case brief
256 F.3d 864

CASE SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff employee brought an action against defendant former employer, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), for verbal harassment by male co-workers and a supervisor based on male stereotyping. The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington entered judgment in favor of employer and employee appealed.

FACTS: The employee testified to an unrelenting barrage of verbal abuse; there was no contrary testimony. The appellate court held a reasonable man would have found the sustained campaign of taunts designed to humiliate and anger was sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment. The employee complained about his harassment, showing the conduct was unwelcome and his workplace was perceived as hostile. Discrimination based on a stereotype that a man should have a virile rather than an effeminate appearance was barred under Title VII. After the complaint, a human resources director told him to tell a manager if the offensive conduct recurred; he conducted a few spot checks after the complaint. There was no effort to investigate the complaint or discuss the allegations with the perpetrators. There was no demand that the harassment cease and no threat of more serious discipline if it continued. Due to a failure to meet its remedial obligations, the employer was liable for the co-worker and supervisor harassment. But, due to a lack of a link between the complaint and the discharge, the retaliation claim failed.

CONCLUSION: The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the district court with respect to plaintiff employee's hostile work environment claim, and remand for further proceedings as to damages. The appellate court affirmed the judgment of the district court with respect to the retaliation claim.

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