FEDweek

Offensive Comments Constitute Harassment

The EEOC reversed an agency’s decision to dismiss allegations of alleged offensive comments related to sexual orientation in Complainant v. U.S. Postal Service, Appeal No. 0120133382 (2/11/15).A single incident was deemed sufficient to constitute a viable claim of harassment motivated by gender-based stereotyping.

The complainant, a letter carrier with the Postal Service, alleged that he was subject to sex discrimination when management failed to address and investigate a coworker’s angry reaction to a work-related matter where he was subjected to a slur and was told that he was “living in sin, and that he would be going to hell.”After he reported the incident to his supervisor, no action was taken other than to tell the employees to stay away from each other. The complainant also alleged retaliatory harassment, but the Postal Service rejected both claims, stating that the comments did not create a hostile work environment and the reprisal claim was vague.

The EEOC found that the “hateful” nature of the alleged comments, coupled with management’s failure to address the matter, was sufficient to state a viable claim of harassment motivated by gender-based stereotyping.The Commission also noted that the complainant provided more details about his retaliation claim on appeal which were sufficient to allege a pattern of ongoing retaliatory harassment.Therefore, it remanded the case for further processing and directed the agency to include the retaliation claim in its investigation and to give the complainant an opportunity to provide more details about his claim.

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman& Kaplan, P.C.