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A Single Word can Create Liability for Hostile Work Environment

It has long been the case that a single slur or offensive comment is not enough in order to prevail on a hostile work environment claim. However, this is no longer the case after the Third Circuit’s recent decision in Castleberry v. STI Grp., No. 16-3131, 2017 WL 2990160, at *3 (3d Cir. July 14, 2017). On appeal, the Third Circuit overturned the Middle District’s ruling.  In doing so, the Court explained that the “plaintiffs alleged that their supervisor used a racially charged slur in front of them and their non-African-American co-workers…Within the same breath, the use of this word was accompanied by threats of termination (which ultimately occurred).” Id. at 4.  Under these facts, the Third Circuit held that a single offensive slur creates severe conduct that could make a hostile work environment; reversing the long history of prior courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware that require the conduct to be regular. This new standard is a win for future plaintiffs alleging a hostile work environment because it will now be easier to succeed on their claims.

Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C., handle cases involving workplace discrimination. Call 215-574-0600 or contact us online to arrange a consultation in our Philadelphia office, where we represent clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.