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Fire safety director’s hostile work environment case reinstated

Posted On: Apr. 25, 2017 2:46 PM CST

Fire safety director’s hostile work environment case reinstated

A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a hostile work environment case filed by a gay black former fire safety director, stating the lower court failed to consider relevant evidence.

Otis A. Daniel, who is of African descent and from the West Indies, was hired by New York-based T&M Protection Resources Inc., a security firm, and sent to work at the IBM Building on Madison Avenue in New York in February 2011, according to court papers in Otis A. Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources Inc., Edward J. Minskoff Equities.

He was terminated in May 2012 and filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York, charging a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and asserting he had been discriminated against because of his race, national origin and sexual orientation.

The lower court dismissed the case, which a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York unanimously reinstated in Tuesday’s ruling. 

The lower court erred in failing to analyze some of the “facially neutral” incidents of harassment Mr. Daniel had complained of, said the ruling.

“Daniel’s supervisor’s inquiry as to whether Daniel stole a computer — combined with the supervisor’s overtly racist remarks — should not have been ignored by the District Court,” said the ruling.

In addition, said the court, “the District Court failed to consider Daniel’s testimony that his supervisor repeatedly watched him nap and change his clothes as evidence of additional incidents of sexual discrimination and harassment. This evidence should have been included in the District Court’s analysis because of the overt sexual harassment Daniel experienced from his supervisor,” the ruling said. 

“Instead, the District Court improperly credited T&M’s argument that the supervisor had a neutral motive for watching Daniel, instead of drawing an inference in Daniel’s favor as the District Court must on a motion for summary judgment.”

The District Court also erred by determining Mr. Daniel had failed to allege incidents of harassment sufficient to support a hostile work environment claim, said the court.

Mr. Daniel “alleged approximately 20 discrete incidents of harassment during his 15-month employment, and at least two incidents strike this Court as severe.” These were being called a racial epithet and an incident where his supervisor brushed his genitalia against Mr. Daniel’s buttocks. “In addition, the sexual harassment Daniel faced could be perceived as threatening,” said the ruling. 

“Finally, although Daniel missed only one day of work because of the harassment he experienced, ‘no single factor is required’ in order for a hostile work environment claim to survive summary judgment,” said the court, citing an earlier case.

“In sum, Daniel presents a persistent pattern of harassment that began as soon as he was hired by T&M and continued until his termination,” said the ruling. 

“The evidence that Daniel was harassed on multiple fronts — because of his race, sex, and national origin — should also be considered when evaluating Daniel’s work environment as a whole,” said the court, in remanding the case for further proceedings.