Grant v. Lone Star Co. Negligence in the Workplace

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Discrimination cases provide a fascinating study in liability. Often, the line between individual behavior and company policy becomes blurred. In such cases, the nature of reporting, any punishment or mishandlings and the legality of holding individuals liable for conduct while on the job can all be called into question. Circuit and district courts have been tasked with assigning blame and liability in a myriad of such cases with varying outcomes. One such example is that of Grant v. Lone Star Co.

Paula Jo Grant filed a complaint with the EEOC in 1988 after she was repeatedly subjected to a hostile work environment involving sexual harassment. Grant contended that during her tenure with Lone Star Co. as a sales representative she was subjected to lewd comments about her body and clothing, as well as sexually explicit jokes, cartoons, and other materials. She contends that commentary the belittled women were regular parts of the workday, and other women were also targeted in the attacks.

Grants lawsuit named Lone Star Co. and its stakeholders in the lawsuit but failed to name Mitchell Murray, the general manager in the suit. During the course of the trial, Murray was noted as the primary aggressor and alleged to have explicitly created a hostile environment by inviting male employees to make comments and jokes that belittled and intimidated the female staff. Murray did not deny the allegations. While Lone Star Co. and its stakeholders were not found liable for creating a hostile work environment, Mitchell Murray was found liable and ordered to pay legal fees, expenses and nearly $6,000 in backpay to the plaintiff.

Murray argued that as a colleague, rather than an employee, he was not liable for backpay or restitution. Murray asserted that as an employee he did not fall under the designation of a Title VII employer and thus could not be held individually liable. Murray’s appeal hinged on the previous precedent when public employees were deemed not responsible, as individuals in discrimination and harassment cases.

Murray also alleged that as a party not initially named in the complaint, he could not be held liable by the courts, as the original complaint did not name him as a potentially liable party. It can be argued that this case created a dangerous precedent. If a company is found not liable, it can be argued that individuals employed by the employer to cannot be held liable for the environment created, especially if the alleged aggressor is not given a chance to alter their behaviors after admonishment from the business that employs them. 

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Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Grant v. Lone Star Co. Negligence in the Workplace. https://www.lynchlf.com/blog/grant-v-lone-star-co-negligence-in-the-workplace/


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