For more information please call  800.727.2766


Organization’s Public Disavowal of White Employee’s Statement Is Not Hostile Work Environment

Maud Maron wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Post regarding her belief about "racial obsessions" in the NYC schools. A career public defender campaigning for New York City Council, Maron wrote as a "mother, public defender, elected public school council member" about her experience with anti-bias training. She claimed the training defined everyone by race, invited discrimination, and divided all thought along a racial axis. The Black Attorneys of Legal Aid (BALA), part of the public defender’s union, issued a statement denouncing her views and cited them as a "classic example of what 21st century [sic] racism looks like.” They also questioned whether she could effectively represent Black and Brown clients based on her beliefs. The Legal Aid Society (LAS) also issued a statement against Maron, asserting that "white supremacy drives every policy and law." LAS questioned whether any public defender could "effectively and fully" engage in the work if "they do not embrace an anti-racist mandate." Maron sued LAS under Title VII for a racially hostile work environment and constructive termination, claiming she could no longer return to her position.

A New York federal district court found BALA's and LAS's public statements fell within the ambit of Title VII. LAS had asserted that white public defenders must take on the additional work of actively dismantling the systems leading to their privilege and oppression of individuals of color. The court said Maron "adequately alleged" the statements were motivated, in part, by her race. The two groups issued statements questioning her competence to perform her work as a white person who refused to engage in anti-racism efforts. Those statements show action based on her race. However, the court did not find Maron alleged sufficient facts to reflect a severe or pervasive hostile work environment. She claimed her clients, most of whom are individuals of color, could not be expected to trust her ability to adequately represent them after LAS's public statement. The court disagreed, finding that LAS used no "racial epithets, reveal[ed] no personally sensitive or private information, and levie[d] no salacious allegations," any of which could have raised the level to the severity necessary for Title VII. The court also focused on the fact that LAS issued a public statement solely because of Maron’s Op-Ed and asserted a broader policy position. Because Maron remained on sabbatical and could still return to work, her constructive discharge claim also fell.