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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. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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