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Home / Courts / Labor & Employment – Civil Rights – Sex Discrimination – Hostile Environment & Retaliation Claims – Isolated Incidents – Poor Performance

Labor & Employment – Civil Rights – Sex Discrimination – Hostile Environment & Retaliation Claims – Isolated Incidents – Poor Performance

Rivers v. Time Warner Cable Inc. (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-04-0731, 13 pp.) (Robert J. Conrad Jr., Ch.J.) 3:11-cv-146;W.D.N.C.

Holding: Where plaintiff alleged only isolated incidents of non-sexual inappropriate behavior by her superior, she failed to allege a hostile work environment.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is granted.

The occasional non-sexual touching plaintiff complains of is not remotely close to establishing the severe and pervasive harassment required for a hostile environment claim.

While manager Kelvin Bryant may have invaded plaintiff’s personal space in removing something from her trash can while she was seated, there is no evidence that such conduct was designed to humiliate, ridicule, or intimidate. Likewise, one compliment and attempted contact with plaintiff’s hair is insufficient to establish a hostile work environment.

Bryant’s alleged blockade of a narrow hallway and direction that plaintiff go under his arm was a childish tease that does not belong in the workplace. However, such isolated boorish behavior is not sufficiently serious to be an actionable change in the conditions of plaintiff’s employment.

Plaintiff’s most serious allegation is that Bryant pulled her shirt away from her back while she was on a call to observe her tattoo. While this is clearly inappropriate, it also appears isolated. Isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment. Plaintiff does not allege that Bryant accompanied this action with any inappropriate comment or attempted to touch plaintiff in a sexual way. This alleged action, while contemptible, is not “extremely serious,” such that it could alone establish a hostile work environment.

Bryant’s alleged inappropriate behavior was not severe or frequent enough to constitute actionable harassment.

Where defendant continued to work to help plaintiff improve her performance for months after she made complaints of sexual harassment, despite plaintiff’s consistent poor performance, plaintiff has failed to show that her termination was in retaliation for making her complaints. Defendant also took plaintiff’s complaints seriously, investigating them and removing Bryant from plaintiff’s sales and development coaching sessions even though defendant determined that plaintiff’s claims were baseless. Plaintiff has not presented any evidence that her termination was a result of anything other than her consistent failure to meet defendant’s sales expectations.

Motion granted.

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