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In reviewing a district court's grant of summary judgment, if the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit concludes that a plaintiff's claims of a racially hostile work environment are sufficiently related, the court must evaluate whether the plaintiff has presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the harassment was pervasive or severe enough to alter the terms, conditions, or privilege of employment. Third, the court considers whether the plaintiff has presented evidence sufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that the defendant's response to the incidents of which it was apprised was inadequate. As to the third inquiry, employers are not automatically liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., for the conduct of employees that creates a hostile work environment. However, since the employer ultimately controls the conditions of the work environment, the Tenth Circuit's cases hold that an employer who condones or tolerates the creation of a hostile work environment should be held liable.
Plaintiff Ranee Tademy worked for Union Pacific Railroad (Union Pacific) from 1979 until he took disability leave in August of 2003 due to depression and anxiety allegedly caused by racial harassment in the workplace. Subsequently, plaintiff brought suit alleging that Union Pacific maintained a racially hostile work environment in contravention of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The district court granted summary judgment for Union Pacific with respect to all of plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff appealed.
Was the plaintiff employee subjected to a racially hostile work environment, thereby rendering the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer an error?
The court held that a reasonable jury could find that the employee was subjected to a racially hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. The court also concluded that there was a triable issue as to whether the railroad condoned or tolerated the creation of the environment, in that it knew or should have known about the alleged harassment and failed to remedy it. The court found that the discriminatory acts at issue constituted a single, actionable hostile work environment. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, and remanded the case for trial proceedings consistent with its opinion.