Law School Case Brief
Kamal Al-Zubaidy v. TEK Indus. - 406 F.3d 1030 (8th Cir. 2005)
Title VII prohibits an employer from subjecting its employees to a hostile work environment because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To establish a hostile work environment claim, plaintiff must show (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he was subjected to unwelcome harassment, (3) the harassment was based on a protected characteristic under Title VII, (4) the harassment affected a term, condition or privilege of employment, and (5) employer liability. There can be no doubt federal harassment standards are demanding. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made it clear that conduct must be extreme to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment. The Supreme Court also has made it abundantly clear that the standards for judging hostility are sufficiently demanding to ensure that Title VII does not become a general civility code.
Plaintiff inmate filed a civil rights action, presenting nine causes of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 2000e-2000e-17; and various state statutes. The inmate claimed he was discharged and harassed based on his race, sex, religion and national origin. He also asserted he was subjected to unlawful retaliation. Addressing the inmate's charge that he was discriminatorily discharged based on his race, sex, religion, and national origin. Defendant TEK Industries is a private corporation with a manufacturing facility in Fremont, Nebraska, and another manufacturing facility located at the Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska. Under an agreement with Cornhusker State Industries, acting under the authority of the Nebraska State Department of Corrections, TEK offers private venture employment to approximately 110 inmates at the Penitentiary. The United States District Court for the District of Nebraska granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, TEK and the inmate's direct supervisor.
Did the district court err in dismissing the discriminatory and hostile work environment claims of plaintiff?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the inmate failed to establish a submissible claim. Initially, the inmate failed to establish a prima facie case because he was not qualified for his position at the time he was discharged -- he had been unable to work at all. The appellate court also found that the district court appropriately dismissed the inmate's hostile work environment claims because his workplace at the penitentiary was not permeated with severe or pervasive harassment sufficient to alter the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The court also found that because his state law claims mirrored his federal claims, the inmate's state law claims also failed.
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