Virginia Court Finds Employer Could be Responsible for Customer Harassment of Employee

A recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling kept alive a legal claim against an employer for harassment of an employee by a customer.

In Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corporation, the plaintiff, Lori Freeman, brought a lawsuit against her former employer and others under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Specifically, Ms. Freeman complained of sexual and racial harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment that caused her to quit her job.

In New York and elsewhere, employers are responsible for keeping harassment out of the workplace. In this case, points alleged by Ms. Freeman include:

  • Hired as a receptionist in 2006 and then advanced to service representative at Dal-Tile, a ceramic tile and natural stone company, Ms. Freeman frequently came into contact with Timothy Koester, an independent sales representative of a Raleigh, North Carolina remodeling center.
  • Over a span of years, Mr. Koester repeatedly made racial slurs, discussed his sexual interests and demeaned Ms. Freeman and others at Dal-Tile. The trial record includes admissions by Mr. Koester that he made sexual comments in the office.
  • As a result of these and other incidents, Ms. Freeman received treatment for anxiety and depression and eventually resigned her position in December 2009.

In May of this year, the Court of Appeals overturned the summary judgment granted by a lower court on the sexual and racial harassment and hostile work environment claims of Ms. Freeman.

Under Title VII and the laws of New York, protected classes of people include those harassed due to gender and race. If, like Ms. Freeman, you experience a hostile work environment, seek experienced legal counsel in New York.

 

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