13:27, August 20 244 0 abajournal.com

2019-08-20 13:27:05
6th Circuit revives claim that judge created hostile work environment

hostile workplace

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A former dockets coordinator can pursue her lawsuit alleging that an Ohio municipal court judge created a hostile work environment.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a claim by Andrea Boxill, a former dockets coordinator, against Judge James P. O’Grady of Franklin County, report Law.com and the Columbus Dispatch. The court ruled in an Aug. 16 opinion by Judge Jane Stranch.

The court did not, however, allow claims against other judges and a court administrator for an alleged plan to discourage employees’ complaints and to intimidate them into silence. The appeals court said claims against those defendants failed because they were based on “broad, conclusory allegations” that did not include specifics.

Boxill alleged that O’Grady had made hostile comments that “mirrored sexist and racist allusions O’Grady had directed at plaintiff” when O’Grady was a bailiff for Judge Scott VanDerKarr, her supervising judge. Boxill is African American. She says she complained to several judges, including VanDerKarr, who is not a defendant in her suit. VanDerKarr eventually drafted a letter about the hostile environment to the court’s presiding judge in March 2014, but the presiding judge advised that the letter should be toned down, Boxill alleged in her lawsuit.

The letter, rewritten by the court administrator, concluded that, if left unaddressed, O’Grady’s behavior might result in future litigation that could subject the court to liability, according to Boxill.

Boxill says she was demoted a week after the revised letter was issued. She resigned in August 2014.

The appeals court said Boxill’s hostile work environment claims against O’Grady were specific enough to survive dismissal.

But the appeals court said Boxill’s allegations against O’Grady didn’t support retaliation and conspiracy claims because she failed to even allege he was aware of her complaints against him.

Judges Raymond Kethledge and Danny Boggs joined Stranch’s opinion.