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Ask Tina Your Own Question
Tina, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 33166
Experience:  JD, 17 years experience & recognized by ABA for excellence in employment law.
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My question relates to a plaintiff who claims to hear statements

Resolved Question:

My question relates to a plaintiff who claims to hear statements in the workplace such as "Good evening, ladies..." or "Good evening, girls..." in the workplace and that plaintiff claims to be particularly offended even if no one else is offended by the exact same comment? Do you necessarily take your plaintiff as you have them? Does the alleged tort feasor's intent in making such a comment have any bearing? Does a reasonable person standard apply? How does federal law and California state law differ in this regard?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Tina replied 4 years ago.
Hello and welcome,

What type of case is pending with regard to your questions?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
There is an investigation being conducted as to a subordinate's claim of harassment and inappropriate language in the workplace. No formalized case exists. But, I am aware of these circumstances because an investigator submitted to me a battery of questions related to the grievance. This is the only question that I feel potentially exposes me to liability...I work for a governmental agency...
Expert:  Tina replied 4 years ago.
I see.

There is no cause of action for harassment typically, but sexual harassment does violate state and federal law.

1) Standard for Evaluating Harassment - In determining whether harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile environment, the harasser's conduct should be evaluated from the objective standpoint of a "reasonable person." Title VII does not serve "as a vehicle for vindicating the petty slights suffered by the hypersensitive." Zabkowicz v. West Bend Co., 589 F. Supp. 780, 784, 35 EPD ¶ 34, 766 (E.D. Wis. 1984). See also Ross v. Comsat, 34 FEP cases 260, 265 (D. Md. 1984), rev'd on other grounds, 759 F.2d 355 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus, if the challenged conduct would not substantially affect the work environment of a reasonable person, no violation should be found.

This is the standard typically applied in all courts with regard to harassment. If the individual is hypersensitive, but a reasonable person would not find the conduct offensive, then there is normally no grounds to assert a cause of action.

Here is a link that provides this and other information:

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