BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe

Cocktail waitress' hostile work environment suit reinstated


An en banc appeals court has reinstated hostile work environment and retaliation charges filed by a terminated cocktail waitress who allegedly had been called a “porch monkey,” holding that a single incident of harassment, if bad enough, can be sufficient to pursue litigation.

Reya C. Boyer-Liberto was hired by the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, in August 2010, according to Thursday's ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in Reya C. Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp. et al.

Seven weeks later, in September 2010, Ms. Liberto carried a drink through the kitchen. A manager, Trudi Clubb, confronted her about taking it through the kitchen and calling her a “porch monkey,” Ms. Liberto claims.

The next day, when Ms. Liberto went to the management office to report Ms. Clubb's conduct, Ms. Clubb pulled her out of the meeting and allegedly repeated the epithet, stating also, “I'm gonna get you. I'm gonna go” to the hotel owner, Dr. Leonard F. Berger to complain.

The owner testified that in light of the racial harassment complaint, he inquired about Ms. Liberto's performance and fired her after receiving a negative evaluation.

Ms. Liberto, who is African-American, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charging a hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The District Court granted the hotel summary judgment, dismissing the case, an action subsequently affirmed by a divided 4th Circuit panel.

The en banc appeals court reinstated both charges in a 12-3 opinion.

“A reasonable jury could find that Clubb's two uses of the 'porch monkey' epithet — whether viewed as single incident or as a pair of discrete instances of harassment — were severe enough to engender a hostile work environment,” said the ruling.

The court also reinstated the retaliation claim.

Pointing to various U.S. Supreme Court rulings, it stated, “An employee is protected from retaliation for opposing an isolated incident of harassment when she reasonably believes that a hostile work environment is in progress, with no requirement for additional evidence that a plan is in motion to create such an environment or that such an environment is likely to occur.”

The ruling also said a jury could reject the hostile work environment claims while ruling in favor of the retaliation charge.

Read Next