Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Employee harassed after coming out at work loses harassment lawsuit

After an employee comes out at work as gay, he alleges that co-workers left him pink nail polish, a nail file, and bath bombs, that someone posted Bible verses on his desk, and that he was moved to an isolated corner of the office. 

Based on these facts, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the employee's sexual harassment claim.

While giving Kilpatrick pink nail polish, pink sunglasses, and bath bombs, and affixing allegedly hostile Bible verses to his desk could be seen as targeting his sexual orientation, these limited events do not meet the bar of "severe or pervasive." … "Severe and pervasive" conduct requires much more.… [C]aselaw sets a high bar to show a hostile work environment, a threshold that is not cleared by the actions alleged here.

The law is a floor, not a ceiling, for employer conduct. An employer's goal should not be avoiding liability, but providing all employees a workplace free from harassment, bullying, and mistreatment, and in which they feel safe. This employer (an HR company no less) might have met its legal obligations, but it feel woefully short of its moral obligations. Don't strive just to do the bare minimum to avoid liability. Do better. Be better.