October 19, 2006
D'Souza = Racially Hostile Environment? Huh?
I have to say that I am with Walter Olson at Overlawyered on this recently-filed case concerning two former private school teachers in Washington State who filed a racially hostile environment claim based in part on the fact that Dinesh D'Souza (a conservative commentator on affirmative action issues) was invited to speak at the school.
To be clear, Title VII harassment provisions can cover employee speech that is part of an overall scheme to make an employee's workplace abusive and hostile based on that employee's protected characteristics such as race. But saying that the mere fact that someone who you disagree with has been invited to engage in an open forum at your workplace is harassing? That's just plain ludicrous, and does illustrate where important civil liberties under the First Amendment can be needlessly infringed by inflated conceptions of the scope of civil rights law.
Most amazing thing about this case? Because of these and other employees protests, D'Souza was actually disinvited from speaking at the school. So according to these teachers' lawsuit, it was apparently not the presence of D'Souza at the school that was abusive and intimidating, but the mere invitation!
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» Inviting conservative author = hostile environment? from Overlawyered
Two teachers have sued an elite Seattle private school charging race bias in the terms of employment: "Among the plaintiffs' complaints was Lakeside's invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a... [Read More]
Tracked on Oct 19, 2006 11:41:34 AM
No, Paul, it's not unbelievable. Sad to say, similar things happen all the time, particularly in academia. Hostile working environment claims sometimes pick up the most trivial comments or conduct. Employers are naturally fearful of litigation, even if not of ultimate liability, and thus act as over-zealous enforcers. Not all of the disputes are employment matters, of course. University speech codes are a prime example, as the frequent reports in FIRE demonstrate. One nice trick is to categorize speech as "verbal acts" and then restrict it. Then there are the speakers who are physically attacked or prevented from speaking, as in the recent Columbia incident. And that's not even counting the people who never get hired because their supposed views are unpopular.
Posted by: Dennis Nolan | Oct 19, 2006 2:27:12 PM