This week the Fifth Circuit held that a cause of action exists for hostile work environment under the ADEA –the first such express holding in the Circuit.  In Dediol v. Best Chevrolet, the plaintiff filed a hostile work environment and constructive discharge claim against the employer.

During the brief two months of employment, Dediol claimed that his direct supervisor repeated referred to him by profane, derogatory names invoking his age; made offensive remarks about his religious beliefs; threatened him both economically with the loss of his job and with physical threats of violence and intimidation. When Dediol’s requested transfer to another department was denied by his supervisor, he told the company’s management that he could no longer take the abuse and ceased reporting for work. The employer terminated his employment for job abandonment. He filed a charge of discrimination; received a right to sue letter and file a hostile work environment suit based on age, religion, harassment and constructive discharge.

In the first holding of its kind in the Fifth Circuit, the panel held that a plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim based on age discrimination under the ADEA could be advanced in court. In setting out the parameters for such claim, the Court borrowed liberally from Title VII hostile work environment jurisprudence.   The court held that the plaintiff must show that 1) he is over age 40; 2) the employee was subject to harassment, either through works or actions, based on age; 3) the nature of the harassment was such that it created an objectively intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; and 4) there is some basis for liability on the part of the employer. In determining whether the harassment is intimidating, hostile or offensive, the conduct must be both objectively and subjectively offensive.

Having concluded that an ADEA hostile work environment based on age exists in this Circuit, the Court examined the record and concluded that genuine factual disputes existed as to each of Dediol’s causes of action. The court reversed the trial court and sent the case back for further consideration –including, potentially, a full trial on the merits.

You can download the complete opinion here.

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