Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Survive Dismissal: Castleberry v. STI Group

Employment Law Commentary, Volume 29, Issue 8

August 2017

The Third Circuit has recently taken steps to resolve inconsistent precedent regarding the standard for pleading hostile work environment harassment. In Castleberry v. STI Group, decided in July, the Third Circuit held for the first time that a single, isolated offensive comment could give rise to liability for harassment. Although Supreme Court precedent has long provided for the possibility that a lone incident can give rise to a harassment claim, in practice, employers have been able to defend these claims with success on the basis that isolated actions are rarely, if ever, severe enough to alter the conditions of employment. Castleberry reminds employers that harassment claims based on single statements should not be presumed insignificant; instead, they should be evaluated in their full factual context.

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