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Colorado Sex Discrimination

Posted by Tamara

According to Human Resources professionals, a manager who verbally abuses or threatens all employees is not guilty of discrimination or of creating a hostile work environment. Instead, these supervisors are considered “equal opportunity harassers”. For abusive behavior to constitute a hostile work environment and illegal discrimination, the abuse must be targeted at an individual or group of individuals based on gender, race, religions, or any of the groups protected by federal law.

An important case in federal court has implications for Colorado employees and employers. To illustrate, consider the case of a female firefighter. Every day for six months, she received photos of naked women in her inbox. This behavior targeted her because she was female and was discriminatory.

Therefore, if a supervisor was simply crass, rude and insulting to everyone, he or she escaped legal repercussions.

That situation, however, may soon change. As a result of a federal 2nd Circuit Court ruling, managers who are verbally abusive to everyone could be guilty of creating a hostile work environment.

This ruling was the result of a case involving Daniel McCarthy of the Electric Boat Corp., and his administrative assistant, Sharon Kaytor. McCarthy made sexual slurs and sexually suggestive remarks to Ms Kaytor about her body and her scent. She rejected his advances and he threatened to choke her or otherwise physically injure her. He was also abusive to other employees.

Then on Administrative Assistants’ Day, McCarthy gave Kaytor a pussy willow plant and a suggestive note. When she threatened to report him to HR, he threatened to kill her.

Ms. Kaytor did report the incident, and was illegally transferred to another engineer who reported directly to McCarthy. The case went to court, which found that McCarthy’s remarks where not targeting Ms. Kaytor because of her sex.

Upon appeal, though, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found McCarthy guilty of illegal discrimination, that sex-specific insults and comments may create a hostile work environment for a female employee, even if the abuser is an “equal opportunity harasser.”

Whether this case goes to the Supreme Court is still unknown, but wise employers will take pains to retrain or terminate any managers who are abusive.



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