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United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
March 24, 2022, Filed
E. Grady Jolly, Circuit Judge:
This case comes to us from a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of Anthony J. Woods's complaint. Woods's complaint alleges that his prior employer, French Market Corporation, violated Title VII by discriminating against him on the basis of race and religion and by subjecting [*2] him to a hostile work environment. He also alleges violations of other civil rights statutes, including section 1981 for race discrimination, section 1983 for violating his First Amendment right to speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, and section 1985 for conspiracy to violate his civil rights. Most of the claims Woods alleged are conclusory and cannot support any cognizable, triable claim.
Liberally construing Woods's pro se appeal, Woods raises many of the same issues that he alleges in his complaint, and it is certainly true that his complaint is extensive. But it is also true that the district court issued a detailed Order and Reasons of forty-four pages responding to each claim, which we have carefully examined. We can find no reversible error in the district court's Order and Reasons, except in one respect: the hostile work environment claim.
For his hostile work environment claim, Woods's complaint specifically alleges that in the presence of other employees, Woods's supervisor, N'Gai Smith, a person of Hispanic descent, directly called him a "Lazy Monkey A N ."1 This allegation is specific, and unlike the majority of Woods's other allegations, non-conclusory. The district court dismissed Woods's hostile work environment claim [*3] because "a single utterance of a racial epithet, despicable as it is, cannot support a hostile work environment claim."
We think that the district court erred in this one respect. It is true that this court has indicated that a single instance of a racial epithet does not, in itself, support a claim of hostile work environment. See, e.g., Mosley v. Marion Cnty., 111 F. App'x 726, 728 (5th Cir. 2004) (per curiam) (finding no hostile work environment despite three incidents involving a racial slur). We have further said, however, that "[u]nder the totality of the circumstances test, a single incident of harassment, if sufficiently severe, [can] give rise to a viable Title VII claim." See, e.g., EEOC v. WC&M Enters., Inc., 496 F.3d 393, 400 (5th Cir. 2007).
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2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 7803 *; 29 F.4th 284; 2022 WL 871885
ANTHONY J. WOODS, Plaintiff—Appellant, versus LATOYA CANTRELL, Mayor, officially; NEW ORLEANS CITY, officially; FRENCH MARKET CORPORATION, officially; RHONDA SIDNEY, officially and individually; N'GAI SMITH, officially and individually; ROBERT MATTHEWS, officially; ELIZABETH S. ROBINS, officially and individually, Defendants—Appellees.
Prior History: [*1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. USDC No. 2:20-CV-482.
Woods v. Cantrell, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48989, 2021 WL 981612 (E.D. La., Mar. 16, 2021)
Disposition: AFFIRMED in part. REVERSED in part. REMANDED.
hostile work environment claim, hostile work environment, alleges, district court, damages, racial epithet, per curiam, N-word, civil rights statute, single incident, harassment, emotional, violating