'Merely discourteous behavior' not unlawful, court tells man who says he was 'shunned' at work

By Mary Ann Magnell | Aug 15, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — A federal court has dismissed a Civil Rights Act and a Pennsylvania Human Relations Act lawsuit because the plaintiff was unable to point to “any evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that this firing was retaliatory.”

Defendant American Hearing Aid Associates Inc. (AHAA) filed for a summary judgment in the case, which was granted on July 30 by Eastern District of Pennsylvania Senior U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller.  

The case was brought against the defendant after plaintiff Rondell Veal was first suspended with pay in November 2016, then fired three days later. He later sued AHAA, according to the Court, “asserting claims of racial discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII, § 1981 and the PHRA.” Veal later withdrew the racial discrimination and hostile work environment claims.  

In the filing, Judge Schiller said the plaintiff was unable to establish a protective activity, and that “generalized complaints” about being “shunned” by coworkers were not “linked to any apparent racial bias nor sufficiently specific to constitute protective activity” and that Mr. Veal’s allegations fell “well short of unlawful discrimination.” 

Although Judge Schiller stated that the court didn’t doubt that Mr. Veal “believed in good faith that he was treated unprofessionally,” the law required that his accusation must be based on “an incident reasonably thought to be unlawful discrimination.” 

The Court further stated that, “merely discourteous behavior” did not rise to the level of unlawful discrimination. It also pointed out that much of the behavior from Mr. Veal’s superior occurred before he complained of racial discrimination.

Further, the filing stated that the defendant had provided “ample evidence” that Veal was fired due to several altercations with other employees, with one confrontation that resulted in an employee “feeling unsafe.” 

Mr. Veal’s complaints about a concocted “paper trail” were also dismissed by the court, according to the court document, because AHAA would have been irresponsible…to not record these complaints and investigate” because it was “faced with multiple reports of Veal angrily confronting coworkers.” 

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 17-1738

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