A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: hostile work environment

Just in Time for Hannukah…

By David M. Krisch

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye Bread. Or according to Sunday’s New York Times, to wed under a huppah.  But do you have to be Jewish to sue your employer for engaging in and allowing anti-semitic behavior?

Last August, executive assistant Ciro Rosselli filed a lawsuit against his employer McKinsey & Co. in the Southern District of New York, alleging religious discrimination and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although the allegation sounds pretty commonplace, the facts of this lawsuit are anything but.

It all started with a yarmulke.

A yarmulke is a religious skullcap that Jewish men wear to show their respect for God; it also signals to the world that the men wearing them are Jewish.  But Mr. Rosselli, who practices “Theosophy,” began, as part of his spiritual exploration of life, to wear one to work.  This did not go over big with his coworkers, many of whom ridiculed him.  One coworker noticing him sporting the head covering accused him of trying to mask a bald spot.  His supervisor was even more direct, crying, “Take that off!” “You’re creeping me out!” And some made what Mr. Rosselli says were pointed anti-semitic references, such as “I guess I won’t be asking you for a loan.”

The media may have broken this story, but that’s about it.

Title VII prohibits the harassment of employees because of their membership to a protected class such as religion.  So we wondered — as others surely did — can an employee sue for religious discrimination targeting a religion he doesn’t belong to?   (more…)

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