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Hostile work environment case involving noose reinstated


A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned a lower court and reinstated a hostile work environment charge filed by a former factory worker who was allegedly threatened with a noose by a coworker.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, however,  affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of race discrimination and retaliation claims, according to its ruling in Tyrone Rembert v. Swagelok Co.

Mr. Rembert, who is Black, started as a temporary employee at Solon, Ohio-based Swagelok’s hardware production facility as a tool crib operator in January 2017. He said he was subjected to race-based harassment daily, including on one occasion by a co-worker who made a noose out of hose pipe and told him, “This is what we do around here,” according to the ruling.

Mr. Rembert said a supervisor did not respond to his complaints.

In August 2017, Mr. Rembert was convicted of domestic violence, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.  He was later offered a permanent position at Swagelok but did not report the conviction. After learning of it, Swagelok revoked its permanent job offer and ended Mr. Rembert’s temporary employment.

Mr. Rembert sued Swagelok in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, charging race discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law. The district court granted the company summary judgment dismissing the case.

In reinstating the hostile work environment claim, a three-judge  appeals court panel said Mr. Rembert had successfully pleaded he belonged to a protected group and had suffered unwelcome harassment that was race-based and “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment.” It also said the company “knew or should have known of this and did nothing.”

“Rembert is entitled to a trial on his hostile-work-environment claim,” the panel said, in remanding the case for further proceedings.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

In March,  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it had charged ExxonMobil Corp. with race discrimination for allegedly failing to react effectively to several cases of hangman’s nooses being displayed at its Baton Rouge, Louisiana, petrochemical complex.