Many workplace discrimination cases involve the situation where a supervisor
harasses or discriminates against an employee. However, what happens where
the harasser is a co-worker?
employment discrimination case –
Velazquez-Perez v. Developers Diversified Realty Corp. – evaluated whether a man was wrongfully terminated based on his
rejection of the human resources manager’s sexual advances.
Velazquez-Perez, a shopping center management company terminated a general manager based
on “performance deficiencies” in his record. However, these
deficiencies were placed in his record by his “jilted” co-worker,
who was also the director of human resources. The U.S. Court of Appeals
for the First Circuit determined that based on the facts alleged, a jury
could find that the company was negligent.
Significantly, the court found that the Faragher/Ellerth negligence standard
that applies to co-worker sexual harassment also applies to “quid
pro quo” sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment includes
to those situations where an employee is required to agree to sexual favors
in order to maintain their job. This marks one of the first case in which
a federal appeals court has applied the Faragher/Ellerth negligence test
in a quid pro quo harassment context.
Specifically, the First Circuit court explained that, “an employer
can be held liable where a co-worker makes statements maligning the employee
for discriminatory reasons with the intent to cause the employee’s
firing, the co-worker’s discrimination proximately causes the employee
to be fired, and the employer acts negligently by permitting the co-worker’s
discriminatory acts to achieve the desired effect, even though it knows
or reasonably should know of the discriminatory motivation.”
As such, such ruling may expand the types of bias that may be considered
For more information, or if you have been subjected to discriminatory or
harassing conduct at work, we urge you to contact the experienced
Georgia employment discrimination attorneys at The Buckley Law Firm immediately to discuss your situation, and determine
your next steps.