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6 PJI 2.2 | Third Circuit (US)
HB-PJI-CA03-06S0202 Download

6 PJI 2.2 | SECTION 1981 | HOSTILE OR ABUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT

In determining whether a work environment is "hostile" you must look at all of the circumstances, which may include:

• The total physical environment of [plaintiff's] work area.

• The degree and type of language and insult that filled the environment before and after [plaintiff] arrived.

• The reasonable expectations of [plaintiff] upon entering the environment.

• The frequency of the offensive conduct.

• The severity of the conduct.

• The effect of the working environment on [plaintiff’s] mental and emotional well-being.

• Whether the conduct was unwelcome, that is, conduct [plaintiff] regarded as unwanted or unpleasant.

• Whether the conduct was pervasive.

• Whether the conduct was directed toward [plaintiff].

• Whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating.

• Whether the conduct was merely a tasteless remark.

• Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with [plaintiff's] work performance.


Conduct that amounts only to ordinary socializing in the workplace, such as occasional horseplay, occasional use of abusive language, tasteless jokes, and occasional teasing, does not constitute an abusive or hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can be found only if there is extreme conduct amounting to a material change in the terms and conditions of employment. Moreover, isolated incidents, unless extremely serious, will not amount to a hostile work environment.

It is not enough that the work environment was generally harsh, unfriendly, unpleasant, crude or vulgar to all employees. In order to find a hostile work environment, you must find that [plaintiff] was harassed because of [race]. The harassing conduct may, but need not be racially-based in nature. Rather, its defining characteristic is that the harassment complained of was linked to [plaintiff’s] [race]. The key question is whether [plaintiff], as a [plaintiff’s race], was subjected to harsh employment conditions to which [those other than members of the plaintiff’s race] were not.

It is important to understand that, in determining whether a hostile work environment existed at the [employer’s workplace] you must consider the evidence from the perspective of a reasonable [member of plaintiff’s race] in the same position. That is, you must determine whether a reasonable [member of plaintiff’s race] would have been offended or harmed by the conduct in question. You must evaluate the total circumstances and determine whether the alleged harassing behavior could be objectively classified as the kind of behavior that would seriously affect the psychological or emotional well-being of a reasonable [member of plaintiff’s race]. The reasonable [member of plaintiff’s race] is simply one of normal sensitivity and emotional make-up.

COMMENT This instruction can be used if the court wishes to provide a more detailed instruction on what constitutes a hostile work environment than those set forth in Instructions 6.1.3 and 6.1.4. This instruction is substantively identical to the definition of hostile work environment in Title VII cases. See Instruction 5.2.1. The standards for a hostile work environment claim are identical under Title VII and Section 1981. See, e.g., Verdin v. Weeks Marine Inc., 124 Fed.Appx. 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2005) (“Regarding Verdin's hostile work environment claim, the same standard used under Title VII applies under Section 1981.”); Ocasio v. Lehigh Valley Family Health Center, 92 Fed.Appx. 876, 879-80 (3d Cir. 2004) (“As amended by the 1991 Civil Rights Act, § 1981 now encompasses hostile work environment claims, and we apply the same standards as in a similar Title VII claim.”). Where the plaintiff seeks recovery under both Title VII and Section 1981, this instruction may be given for both causes of action.

For further commentary on the definition of a hostile work environment, see Instruction 5.2.1.

(Last Updated March 2018)

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