Posted by Tamara
In the past, a South Carolina supervisor or manager who verbally abused all employees was not guilty of discrimination or of creating a hostile work environment. They were simply bad managers.
A hostile work environment occurred when the subject of abuse was targeted because of their sex, race, religion, or any of the other groups protected under federal law. A classic example of the definition is the female firefighter who received photos of naked women in her inbox every day for six months. She was the target of these photos simply because she was female.
Because these abusive supervisors didn’t target one particular group, they avoided legal repercussions.
A recent 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, however, will change that. Employers in South Carolina with “equal opportunity harassers” as supervisors may still be guilty of creating a hostile work environment for those employees. Because this was a federal case, it has implications for employers across the nation.
The relevant case, Kaytor v. Electric Boat Corp., Daniel McCarthy made suggestive remarks to his administrative assistant, Sharon Kaytor, about her body and her scent. When she rejected his advances he threatened to kill her.
One day Ms. Kaytor left work early for a gynecologist appointment. McCarthy made vile remarks. On Administrative Assistants’ Day, he gave her a suggestive note and a pussy willow plant. Kaytor told him she was going to report the incident to Human Resources, and McCarthy threatened to kill her.
Kaytor reported the incident, and was illegally transferred to another engineer, who reported to McCarthy, and treated her badly.
The lower court initially found McCarthy was an “equal opportunity harasser” and that no jury would rule his actions as discriminatory against Ms. Kaytor’s gender, because he harassed other female employees and male employees as well.
On appeal, however, the 2nd Circuit Court ruled overturned that ruling and found that McCarthy’s sexual slurs and threats were because of Ms. Kaytor’s gender, created a hostile work environment and constituted illegal discrimination.
It is unknown at this point whether the case will be taken to the Supreme Court. Employers, however, should take action and either retrain or weed out abusive supervisors.
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