- A Marriott employee of Egyptian descent alleging he suffered retaliation for reporting employee theft and was called an "Egyptian rat" and more can proceed with his hostile work environment and retaliation claims, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded (Rasmy v. Marriott International, Inc., No. 18-3260-cv (2nd Cir. March 6, 2020)).
- Gebrial Rasmy allegedly made repeated complaints to HR, a general Marriott complaint line and the company's senior director of global investigations, to no avail. He said he was threatened to "keep your mouth shut...or your days will be numbered" after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Rasmy was eventually fired following a dispute with another employee who allegedly spat in Rasmy's face.
- The 2nd Circuit vacated a district court's ruling in favor of Marriott and remanded the case for trial, stating that Rasmy presented disputed issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury.
According to the EEOC, mere teasing is not sufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim. Instead, the the conduct must create a work environment that would be "intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people."
What does, and does not, is not always clear. One court recently found that a few incidents over the course of several years was insufficient to support an employee's claims of hostile work environment, retaliation, disparate treatment and constructive discharge. But another court said a supervisor's use of racial slurs a few times against an employee was enough to allow a suit to proceed.
But even when comments or conduct don't create a legally actionable hostile work environment, they can still harm the workplace by creating stress, low morale and preventable turnover, experts say. To encourage a positive and respectful atmosphere, experts recommend that employers impose consequences for bad behavior, investigate complaints and train all levels of the workforce.
In Rasmy, the employee allegedly went to extraordinary lengths to try to bring his complaints to light, including traveling to Marriott's corporate headquarters and speaking in person with senior official who allegedly told the employee, "there's nothing I can do."