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Hostile work environment suit against airline reinstated

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by a gay former airline employee, who charged he had been harassed by gay supervisors and colleagues.

David Hansen had worked for St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines, a unit of SkyWest Inc., from 2003 until he was fired in 2011, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in David Hansen v. SkyWest Airlines.

Mr. Hansen, who had worked as a customer service agent in both Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, charged he had been the focus of numerous incidents of sexual harassment over the years. 

He was fired in January 2011 after he became involved in an argument with a co-worker over changing tickets for passengers, which led to a heated exchange. The events leading up to his termination were investigated by SkyWest officials that included one of his alleged harassers, according to the ruling.

Mr. Hansen filed suit in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on charges including a sex-based hostile work environment and retaliation. The District Court dismissed the case, and Mr. Hansen appealed.

In remanding Mr. Hansen’s hostile work environment claim, a three-judge appeals court panel quoted a previous ruling in stating the District Court should consider whether a reasonable jury could conclude Mr. Hansen’s “workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of his employment and create an abrasive working environment.”

The appeals panel also remanded Mr. Hansen’s retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims for further proceedings by the lower court.