Race-Based Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Against Auburn University

In Wells-Marshall v. Auburn University et al, 2022 WL 16701108 (M.D.Ala. 2022), the court dismissed plaintiff’s race-based hostile work environment claim.

From the decision:

Wells-Marshall avers that, over the course of several months, she inherited a “sinking ship” of a department, she was verbally berated by a subordinate who she wanted to reprimand but who her supervisor did not, she was unjustly reprimanded, she faced double standards concerning her supervisor’s treatment of white employees versus black employees, she was inappropriately accused of threatening other employees and being curt, aggressive, and intimidating, she was held to a different standard by her supervisor when compared to others, and she was wrongly terminated as executive director after complaining of a hostile work environment. Yet, she only cites to a few discrete incidents in her Complaint. These acts and the others asserted in the Complaint are certainly rude and unprofessional, if true. Nevertheless, they do not rise to the level of severe or pervasive harassment or hostility that would alter the terms and conditions of employment.

The court supported this decision by citation to a number of decisions in which the Eleventh Circuit “has repeatedly found much more abhorrent conduct to be nonetheless insufficient to state a hostile work-environment claim” (including one case involving the display of a Confederate flag, racist graffiti, hearing the n-word, and placement of a noose), as well as cases finding that conduct involving workplace unpleasantness similar to that alleged here was insufficiently severe or pervasive to support a hostile work environment claim.

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