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. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.