Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of Mr. Christopher Swindell, whose workplace discrimination and retaliation claims against two defense contractors, were dismissed by the district court. An accomplished Black veteran, Mr. Swindell alleges that he experienced a racially abusive work environment, and he was fired shortly after reporting the discriminatory remarks and harassment to his superiors.
Mr. Swindell sued his former employers, claiming the defendants maintained a hostile work environment under Title VII and retaliated against him for reporting the harassment under Section 1981 and Title VII. The district court dismissed all of Mr. Swindell’s claims, holding that his beliefs were subjective, and an objective, reasonable person would not think his claims constituted a hostile work environment. The court held that the racist comments Mr. Swindell was subject to were “offensive,” but not actionable under Title VII because they didn’t involve physical threats or implicate disciplinary action.
The amicus brief filed by LDF argues that the district court failed to consider the “totality of circumstances” of Mr. Swindell’s work environment and instead narrowly focused on whether the complained-of comments constituted physical threats or resulted in disciplinary actions. The brief also argues that the court failed to analyze whether Mr. Swindell’s work environment would be considered hostile and abusive from the perspective of a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position. In failing to asses the allegations of abuse from the plaintiff’s perspective as a Black man, the district court disregards the experiences of Black people who work in hostile environments and minimizes the potential impact of racial discrimination and abuse.
Read the amicus brief here.