Race/National Origin-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Survive Summary Judgment

In Robinson v. Attractions Lodging, Inc., 6:20-cv-32-EJK, 2022 WL 2904869 (M.D.Fla. July 22, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s race and national origin based hostile work environment claims asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

As to Plaintiff’s claim that the hostile work environment was based on race and her national origin, the Court considers whether Plaintiff established the requisite elements. The Court does find that Plaintiff, who is Jamaican and Black, belongs to a protected group. The Court also finds that Plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome harassment based on these protected characteristics. And finally, the Court finds that there is a genuine dispute as to whether the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment.

To establish this element, a plaintiff must show “that [her] work environment is both subjectively and objectively hostile.” Fortson v. Carlson, 618 F. App’x 601, 606 (11th Cir. 2015). For the subjective component, a plaintiff must “subjectively perceive the harassment as sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or conditions of his employment.” Id. For the objective component, the “severity of harassment is judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position.” Id. “In determining the objective element, a court looks to ‘all the circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.’ ” McCann, 526 F.3d at 1378 (quoting Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 536 U.S. at 116).

Plaintiff has alleged throughout the Amended Complaint that she suffered from offensive comments and negative bullying, making her work environment “pervasive [with] ridicule and mockery.” (Doc. 17 at 43.) Plaintiff asserts that the disparaging comments occurred during the period of “August, September 2016, December, January–March 2018.” (Doc. 57-3 at 23-24.) Although Defendant argues the Court should consider comments occurring during only “one or two months of 2016,” as discussed above, the entire time period of the hostile environment is considered in determining liability. (Doc. 58 at 11); see Watson, 324 F.3d at 1258. Defendant’s argument, incorrectly based on only a two-month period, does not persuade the Court that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that the comments occurred over a period of several months, and while the comments were not physically threatening, a reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff’s workplace was “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that [was] sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the employment and create an abusive working environment.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

The court then concluded that “[i]n considering Defendant’s Motion and reading the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court cannot say Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.”

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