In a recent unanimous published opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that an employer cannot be liable for discriminatory conduct by an employee toward a co-employee for purposes of a Title VII hostile working environment claim, if the employer promptly imposes discipline on the offending employee that is reasonably calculated to stop the discriminatory conduct. In Erika Bazemore v. Best Buy, Case No. 18-2196, the appellate court affirmed the decision by the U.S. District Court for Maryland granting Best Buy’s motion to dismiss the claim brought by Ms. Bazemore, an African-American employee, arising from her co-employee’s use of a racial slur.
The court refused to “micromanage” Best Buy’s disciplinary procedures, holding that, because Best Buy promptly issued the offending employee mid-level discipline in the form of a “Final Write-Up” when it became aware of the conduct, and the discipline was effective in stopping the discriminatory conduct, the employee’s offensive conduct could not be imputed to Best Buy. The court rejected Ms. Bazemore’s arguments that mid-level discipline was insufficient, that termination was warranted and that a store-wide statement that discrimination would not be tolerated was necessary. Significantly, the court’s decision would not necessarily apply in a situation where a supervisor had committed the discriminatory act or where the discipline was insufficient to stop the offensive conduct.
If you are an employer facing a hostile work environment claim, please call Luchansky Law at 410-522-1020 to arrange a consultation.