Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a black operating room technician at a Dallas-area hospital. The technician had sought recourse for his termination after complaining about race-based discrimination in the workplace.
Previously, the trial court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had refused to compensate the technician for the hostile work environment he faced. While the U.S. Supreme Court gave no rationale for its decision not to take up the appeal, the justices’ choice should alarm minority workers across the country.
The mistreatment at the hospital was bad
In his appeal, the technician claimed someone had carved a pejorative word into the hospital’s elevator. The hospital also had swastika graffiti in places where the technician worked. Furthermore, the technician complained to hospital officials regularly about treatment disparities between white and black workers.
The hospital had no obligation to act
Despite the technician’s contention that hospital administrators facilitated a hostile work environment, the lower courts found the hospital had no legal obligation to intervene. This opinion makes one wonder what actions would be serious enough to constitute a hostile work environment.
California workers may be better off
There is a silver lining for California workers, as the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the matter does not establish precedent in the Golden State. After all, California is within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and not under the Fifth Circuit.
Ultimately, this latest inaction by the U.S. Supreme Court may be a red flag for the future of minority rights in the workplace. If the Supreme Court chooses to take up a future case, its justices may outline narrow criteria for proving the existence of a hostile work environment.