NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS SAYS SEX-NEUTRAL ACTS SUPPORT AN EX-VERIZON EMPLOYEE’S SUIT

In 2004, a sales engineer in New York, Cindy Moll, sued Verizon for violating state and federal laws by allegedly subjecting her to a sexually hostile work environment, paying her less than male employees and retaliated against her for making complaints of discrimination and harassment.  The lower court dismissed most of her claims.  Moll appealed, and argued that the lower court should have considered acts that were not sexually offensive by nature because it is offensive when included as part of the overall work environment.  The appeals court agreed and stated, “[a] hostile work environment claim exists under Title VII [federal law] where ‘the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.’”  The appeals court held that Moll’s complaint included both sexually overt and facially sex-neutral incidents, and the lower court should have considered all incidents in their totality before it dismissed Moll’s hostile work environment claims for failure to allege an actionable incident within the applicable statute of limitations.

The key point here is that under certain circumstances, a hostile work environment, even if on its face is gender neutral, may be considered unlawfully discriminatory under the Civil Rights Act.

This case can be viewed by clicking here.

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