Thursday, October 19, 2006
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!