Legal Memorandum: Hostile Workplace Environment Claims

Issue: What methods are open to plaintiffs to obtain awards for punitive damages in sexual and racial hostile workplace environment claims?

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Punitive damages; Sexual and racial hostile workplace environment claims
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 383 F.3d 580; 94 F. Supp. 2d 294; 217 F.3d 612; 224 F.3d 1203; 137 F.3d 944; 933 F. Supp. 396; 172 F.3d 1232; 132 F.3d 978; 271 F.3d 352; 266 F.3d 792; 426 F. Supp. 2d 914; 95 F.3d 627; 174 F.3d 95; 373 F.3d 923; 956 F. Supp. 1457; 42 F. Supp. 2d 334; 382 F.3d 816; 214 F.3d 813; 266 F. Supp. 2d 909; 30 F. Supp. 2d 1333; 396 F.3d 1088; 233 F.3d 655; 464 F.3d 1164; 277 F. Supp. 2d 973; 67 F. Supp. 2d 228; 536 U.S. 101
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2008

Plaintiffs have been very successful in obtaining awards for punitive damages in sexual and racial hostile workplace environment cases in the last decade or so.  Understanding how they have proven the employer’s reckless indifference is best achieved by categorizing these cases according to the types of factual situations.*FN1

Employer awareness of federal anti-discrimination law

Chavez v. Thomas & Betts Corp., 396 F.3d 1088 (10th Cir. 2005) (employer’s sexual harassment policy was posted throughout facility so as to support finding that it was aware its actions might violate federal law)*FN2

Lust v. Sealy, Inc., 277 F. Supp. 2d 973 (W.D. Wis. 2003) (both employee’s supervisor and the decision maker knew that sex discrimination violated federal law)*FN3

Lamberson v. Six West Retail Acquisition, Inc., No. 998 CIV 8053 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2002) (employer awareness of anti-discrimination laws shown by admission of managerial employee that he was aware of law against retaliation and by the fact that employer had human resources department)

Zimmermann v. Assocs. First Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 376 (2d Cir. 2001) (vice-president admitted awareness of Title VII requirements)

Romano v. U-Haul Int’l, 233 F.3d 655 (1st Cir. 2000) (immediate supervisor and president of employer knew about anti-discrimination policies and that firing employee was discriminatory)

Ogden v. Wax Works, Inc., 214 F.3d 999 (8th Cir. 2000) (supervisor sexually harassed female employee despite […]

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