by Brandon R. Sher
Originally published: August 7, 2017
Is a single racial slur by an employee’s supervisor enough to create a hostile work environment under § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866? The answer is yes according to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Castleberry v. STI Group, No. 16-3131 (3d Cir. July 14, 2017).
In Castleberry, two African American males were employed as general laborers. They claimed that while working on a fence-removal project, their supervisor threatened to fire them if they “n[****]r-rigged” the fence. The incident was confirmed by their coworkers and reported thereafter by the employees to a superior. Two weeks later, they were fired without explanation (and they were subsequently rehired, only to be fired again for “lack of work”).
The employees filed suit alleging harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The trial court dismissed the employees’ harassment claim because it determined the facts as pleaded did not support a finding that the harassment was pervasive and regular.