Posted by Tamara
A recent case in the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals may change the perception of creating a hostile work environment. Kaytor v. McCarthy ruled that although Daniel McCarthy verbally abused and threatened employees of all races, sex and color, that did not excuse him from guilt of sex discrimination. The court found his sex-specific insults to his administrative assistant, Sharon Kaytor were indeed based on her gender.
This ruling may prove to be a landmark in the fight against discrimination, because prior to this case, “equal opportunity harassers” like McCarthy were considered crass, rude and abusive, but not guilty of creating a hostile work environment. Instead, managers like McCarthy were excused from legal repercussions simply because they didn’t specifically target one protected group with their abuse.
The Kaytor v. Electric Boat Corp., (McCarthy’s employers) case did find however, that sex-specific insults and comments could create a hostile work environment, even when coming from an “equal opportunity harasser”.
The incidents took place in 2004 when McCarthy was going through a divorce. He made suggestive comments and inappropriate remarks about Kaytor’s body and her scent. She rejected him. He then threatened to choke her or kill her–threats which he made to other employees.
On Administrative Assistants’ Day, however, McCarthy gave Ms. Kaytor a pussy willow plant and a sexually suggestive note. Kaytor told him she was going to report the incident to Human Resources. McCarthy again threatened to kill her if she did.
When Ms. Kaytor filed the report, Electric Boat Corp. illegally transferred to another engineer who also treated her badly. This engineer also reported directly to McCarthy.
The lower court considered McCarthy an “equal opportunity harasser” and determined a jury would not believe his remarks to Ms. Kaytor to be based on her sex. The 2nd Circuit Court disagreed, stating that McCarthy had based his comments on Ms. Kaytor’s gender and had created a hostile work environment.
Employers in Kentucky need to be aware of this ruling, and understand that habitually abusive managers could be guilty of creating a hostile work environment, which constitutes illegal discrimination.
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