Friday, July 04, 2014

Anti-Christian Video Clips Did Not Create Hostile Work Environment

Parker v. Side By Side, Inc., (ND IL, June 27, 2014), is a suit by a former employee of a Chicago bar that caters primarily to single gay men.  Among other things, plaintiff, a non-denominational Christian, claimed religious harassment by co-workers that created a hostile work environment. The court concluded that it could not determine at the summary judgment stage whether the harassment had a religious character, or instead was political in nature, aimed at the political ideology of conservative Christians:
The line between religious and political beliefs—and, thus, the line between protected and non-protected characteristics under Title VII—is often muddy, especially in the context of social policy issues....
However the court rejected the claim that videos played at the bar amounted to religious harassment, saying:
... [T]he allegedly offensive anti-Christian video clips ... do not contribute to the alleged hostility of his work environment. Sidetrack played the video clips during “Comedy Nights,” and it obtained all or at least a vast majority of the clips from mainstream broadcasts. None of the allegedly offensive material was directed at Plaintiff. Sidetrack, moreover, is known for playing comedic and other video clips on screens around the bar. The Court must evaluate the “totality of the circumstances” ..., but it need not—and must not—abandon common sense and sensitivity to social context in evaluating the alleged hostility. Just as a reasonable professional football player would not consider his working environment to be severely or pervasively hostile “if the coach smacks him on the buttocks as he heads onto the field,”..., a reasonable person in Plaintiff’s position would not view mainstream video clips played as part of Sidetrack’s Comedy Night events to create or even contribute to an allegedly hostile work environment.
Volokh Conspiracy has more on the decision.