A recent decision from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clarifying the standard of evidence in a hostile work environment claim has gained much attention from the employment bar, with plaintiffs’ lawyers lauding it and management attorneys saying it goes too far.

In Cruz v. Coach Stores, 202 F3d 560, which was handed down in late January, the 2nd Circuit reached the controversial conclusion that abusive racial comments or conduct directed at employees other than the plaintiff can exacerbate the effect of sex-based hostility that the plaintiff experiences herself. The court also left open the question of whether a plaintiff can combine evidence of racial and sexual harassment together to support a hostile work environment claim where neither charge could survive on its own.

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