A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a lower court and reinstated hostile work environment and constructive discharge claims filed by a former worker at a home care facility who allegedly was subjected to racial epithets by the 6-year-old granddaughter of the facility’s owner, among other incidents.
Tonya R. Chapman had worked for two terms at the Oakland Living Center Inc. facility in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, where she was subjected to multiple instances of racial harassment and other discrimination, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Richmond, Va., in Tonya R. Chapman v. Oakland Living Center Inc. et al.
Ms. Chapman said she felt compelled to resign for good in the summer of 2018 after being repeatedly called a racial epithet by a 6-year-old who was the owners’ grandson and a supervisor’s son.
Chapman filed suit in US District Court in Asheville, North Carolina, alleging hostile work environment and constructive discharge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The district court granted the facility summary judgment dismissing the case and was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court.
The decision analyzed three “n-word” incidents, including one in which the boy stated he repeated a derogatory comment about Chapman made by his father, a supervisor at the facility.
Given the circumstances, including that the boy was her supervisor’s son, “the fact that the three n-word incidents were committed by a six-year-old boy does not preclude a finding that these incidents are sufficiently serious or pervasive to alter Chapman’s state employment and create an abusive work environment,” the ruling states, by reinstating her claim and remanding the case for further proceedings
Attorneys in the case did not respond to a request for comment or could not be reached.