The Third Circuit has clarified the standard used to determine whether conduct is sufficient to support a claim for harassment or a hostile work environment. In Castleberry v. STI Group, 863 F.3d 259 (3rd Cir. 2017), the plaintiffs were two black employees at an oil and gas company. The employees claimed harassment where their supervisor used a racially-charged slur in front of them and threatened to fire them. Seven co-workers confirmed that the supervisor had made the statement. As to whether one statement or act may be sufficient to support a claim for harassment, the court noted that it had used inconsistent language in the past, including requiring the conduct at issue to be “pervasive and regular” or “severe and pervasive.” The court clarified that the correct standard is “severe or pervasive.” The employer defendant argued that the Third Circuit has never held that a single isolated incident constituted a hostile work environment. The court acknowledged that it had never done so in the past, but stated that the “severe or pervasive” rule is consistent with Supreme Court precedent (citing language in Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, 542 U.S. 129 (2004) and Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993)) as well as cases from other circuits. The court went on to find that the case should not have been dismissed, because the plaintiffs had shown conduct from the employer that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to survive summary judgment.
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