Can your employer be held liable for failing to adequately respond to offensive
conduct by customers towards workers? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit has ruled yes. In
Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp., the court ruled that a black female former employee had triable sexual
and racial harassment claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights
Act. The claims were based on the failure of her employer to adequately
respond to persistent offensive remarks and conduct by a customer.
Sexual and race harassment claims are forms of employment discrimination
and may arise where unwelcome or offensive conduct and/or comments create
a hostile environment that “alter the terms and conditions of your
employment.” If you believe you have been subjected to workplace
harassment it’s critical to consult with an experienced
Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible who can advise you concerning your rights, and your
In this instance Lori Freeman, a receptionist at Dal-Tile Corp., was subjected
to repeated racial and sexual epithets, along with other offensive conduct,
by a sales representative for one of Dal-Tile’s customers. The sales
rep had daily contact with Freeman. Freeman complained to her supervisor
about the conduct, but it took more than three years for the company to
eventually take action banning the man from the premises and barring him
from contacting Freeman.
The court reasoned that the employer’s actions took too long –
specifically Judge Dennis W. Shedd wrote, “Although the harassment
eventually stopped after the communication ban was put into place, the
harassment had continued unabated for three years prior to that …
While a communication ban may have been an adequate response had it been
put into place sooner, Dal-Tile’s failure was in not responding
promptly to the harassment.”
He concluded that Dal-Tile knew, or should have known, the conduct was
occurring and acted to stop it sooner. The failure to do so could be grounds
for employer negligence.
This case is significant because for the first time, the Fourth Circuit
held in a published opinion that negligence standard applies to third-party
harassment claims under Title VII, joining several other federal circuits
in embracing that rule.
For more information, or if you are concerned that you may have suffered
employment harassment, please seek help immediately and call the experienced
Georgia employee’s rights attorney at the Buckley Law Firm, LLP for an immediate consultation.