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7th Circuit affirms dismissal of hostile work environment claim

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a woman failed to prove that she was subject to a hostile work environment at Ball State University.

In Maetta Vance v. Ball State University, et al., No. 08-3568, Maetta Vance claimed that her co-workers’ racially charged statements along with unfavorable treatment by her superiors created a hostile work environment.

Vance’s complaint stems from incidents that began in 2001, when Saundra Davis, her co-worker in the University Dining Services catering department, allegedly slapped Vance in the back of the head without provocation. Vance orally complained to her supervisors, but because Davis soon transferred to another department, she did not pursue the matter.

Around the same time, Bill Kimes became Vance’s supervisor. She said Kimes refused to shake her hand when they first met, used a gruff tone of voice with her, and made her feel unwelcome. The Circuit Court held that while evidence exists to support that Kimes was generally difficult to work with, there is no cause to believe he treated her differently than others because of her race, and Vance admitted in her deposition that she had never heard him say anything about her race.

In 2005, Davis returned to Vance’s department, and on September 23, 2005, the two had an altercation in the elevator. A few days later, Vance heard from a fellow employee that another co-worker, Connie McVicker, used a racial epithet to refer to Vance and African-American students on campus.

On September 26, 2005, Vance complained orally to her supervisor about McVicker’s statements, and on October 17, 2005, she called University Compliance to request a complaint form. While requesting the document, Vance again complained about McVicker’s racially offensive comments and, for the first time, informed Ball State that Davis had slapped her four years earlier. In early November, Vance submitted a written complaint detailing McVicker’s comments and the elevator incident with Davis.

Ball State investigated the racial epithet and recommended that Kimes give McVicker a written warning due to the seriousness of the allegation. Typically, the university issues a verbal warning for a first offense and a written warning for a second offense. Kimes issued a written warning to McVicker, but was unable to discipline her when Vance alleged McVicker had subsequently called her another racial epithet because there were no witnesses to support Vance’s claim.

Over the course of several years, Vance lodged multiple complaints against her co-workers, stating that they made faces at her, stared at her, and slammed pots and pans when she was nearby. But the Circuit Court held that a hostile work environment claim requires a consideration of all the circumstances because, in the end, it is the employer’s liability that is at issue, not the liability of particular employees. In Vance’s case, the court held she did not prove Ball State was negligent because the university did investigate her claims.
 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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