A Black female employee of Prisma Health in Greenville County filed suit against the organization on May 1, alleging race and sex discrimination, as well as retaliation and defamation. Tiara McGee filed suit after her superiors allegedly ignored her allegations of a hostile work environment for two years (since October 2018). It can be difficult to determine exactly when you are working in a hostile environment, but if you are able to show that you are, you may be able to recover for the damage you suffered.
The concept of a hostile work environment is almost uniformly misunderstood by the average person. Too often, people think that an environment is automatically hostile if, say, a lot of yelling goes on or there is very little focus on team building. In reality, a hostile work environment happens when harassment becomes so pervasive that the targeted employee can no longer do their job. The odd joke or a bit of teasing does not rise to that level, but too often, behavior goes beyond that point.
Ms. McGee began to file reports of a hostile work environment after a coworker allegedly exposed herself to Ms. McGee. Afterward, she experienced significant “retaliatory and targeted conduct”—in other words, harassment—from coworkers, and also was allegedly intentionally kept from further work for Prisma, though the company denies this. As of this writing, Ms. McGee is still employed at the company, though it remains to be seen what will happen as suit proceedings get underway.
Protected Characteristics Matter
The most important factor that must be present for a claim of hostile work environment to potentially be successful in court is showing that the harassment is based on a protected characteristic of the targeted employee. In the case of Ms. McGee, the harassment was allegedly based on race and gender/sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from negative employment action based on race, color, gender/sex, religion, national origin, and disability.
Generally, Prisma will be liable if Ms. McGee can establish that a hostile work environment existed, and that Prisma knew or should have known about its existence but failed to act. As of this writing, Prisma has denied all of the allegations in Ms. McGee’s complaint, but if they can be proven in court, Prisma will have to respond to them. If the suit is successful, Prisma could be ordered to rehire (or upgrade) the employee in question, as well as possibly granting back pay and benefits. It remains to be seen whether Ms. McGee’s suit will be successful.
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
While mere teasing is not actionable, if things get so bad that an employee cannot do their job, the employer has an obligation to protect their workers. If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of a protected characteristic, you do have options. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in these matters, and is ready to sit down with you and discuss yours. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule a consultation.