The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled for an employer on a discrimination law question. Reine v. Honeywell Int’l Inc., No. 09-30030 (5th Cir. Jan. 21, 2010), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/09/09-30030.0.wpd.pdf.
The plaintiff contended that her boss made discriminatory statements to her and that she reported his conduct to her employer. Later, she filed a lawsuit, alleging hostile work environment sex discrimination and retaliation. The district court dismissed the discrimination claim on summary judgment because the plaintiff could not show that her boss’s treatment was based on sex. The district court also dismissed the retaliation claim because the plaintiff failed to show that a causal connection between her complaint of discrimination and the alleged adverse actions existed and because she failed to rebut the non-retaliatory reasons offered by her employer for the adverse actions.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment. The plaintiff’s evidence showed that her boss harassed males and females, and, when a superior’s conduct is equally harsh towards men and women, no sex-based hostile work environment claim can exist. The plaintiff’s retaliation claim failed for two reasons. First, the plaintiff could not link her complaint of discrimination to the alleged adverse actions. Second, her employer offered non-retaliatory reasons for each event, and the plaintiff failed to show these reasons were pretext.
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