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Fifth Circuit Rules for Plaintiff in Retaliation Case

The Fifth Circuit recently reversed summary judgment in a plaintiff’s retaliation case.

December 08, 2013


(press release: cdklawyers) // Dallas, Texas, United States // Keith Clouse
The Fifth Circuit recently reversed summary judgment in a plaintiff’s retaliation case. Royal v. CC&R Tres Arboles, L.L.C., No. 12-11022 (5th Cir. Nov. 21, 2013), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/12/12-11022-CV0.pdf.

The plaintiff worked for the defendant for just four days. During that time, two maintenance men repeatedly hovered over her and sniffed her in a sexually suggestive manner. The plaintiff complained to her superiors and was fired for unspecific reasons. The district court granted summary judgment on the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim because the sniffing was not objectively unreasonable. The court also granted summary judgment on her retaliation claim because a reasonable person would not believe the reported conduct constituted an unlawful employment practice. The plaintiff appealed the ruling on her retaliation claim.

The Court reversed. The plaintiff showed genuine issues of disputed material facts about whether the conduct created a hostile work environment, and, if so, whether her complaint was causally related to her termination. Comments by coworkers suggested that they understood the sniffing to be sexual in nature, and the sniffing could be considered pervasive and severe conduct, even if no physical contact occurred. Likewise, the close temporal link between her complaints and her firing could lead a reasonable jury to believe her complaint was causally related to her termination.

To learn more about workplace retaliation, contact an employment lawyer in your area. This article is presented by the employment law attorneys at Clouse Dunn LLP. For inquiries, send an email to debra@clousedunn.com or call (214) 239-2705.