“Hostile Work Environment” Can Be Shown By Conduct Directed at Other Employees

In EEOC v. Suffolk Laundry Services, 48 F.Supp.3d 497 (2014), the Eastern District of New York denied defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiffs’ hostile work environment claims. (Here is the complaint and here is the EEOC press release about the lawsuit.)

One point this decision makes is that “conduct directed at other employees is part of the totality of circumstances to be considered in evaluating a hostile work environment claim.”

For example, it held, with respect to one plaintiff, that

there is sufficient evidence from which a rational juror could find that the recurring nature of [alleged harasser Rajindra] Singh’s unwanted physical contact with [alleged female sexual harassment victim] Vilorio—“caressing” her on fifteen occasions, touching her in her face and at the waist, and asking her for a kiss on several occasions over an 8 month period, despite her requests that he stop the behavior—in addition to her observations of Singh’s conduct engaging in similar harassment of other female employees, were sufficiently pervasive as to alter Vilorio’s working conditions creating a hostile work environment.

This decision provides a good overview of the law in this area, including whether the alleged conduct is sufficient to make out a hostile work environment claim, as well as whether an employer is vicariously liable under the Supreme Court’s decision in Vance v. Ball State Univ., 133 S.Ct. 2424 (2013).

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