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Gay man's hostile work environment claim against A T & T is dismissed

Jeffrey Kalich sued his employer after his immediate supervisor, David Rich, allegedly subjected him to inappropriate and offensive commentary alluding to Kalich's sexual preferences. The running commentary included suggestions that Kalich adopt a woman's first name, derided his "cute" choice of dog, suggested that he looked and dressed "like a girl," denegrated the human rights sticker on his car, and suggested that he "sew a quilt." The supervisor visited the retail store Kalich managed in Clarkston about ten times each month and according to Kalich made these comments in the presence of Kalich's employees.  He allegedly called Kalich a ncrophiliac, Kalich hirerd a lawyer, and the EEOC and A T & T intervened.

Ultimately, Rich was transferred to another region where he could harass someone else, and Kalich resigned, claiming that the investigation of Rich's conduct had changed his work environment to make it untenable.  He then filed this legal action against the employer, arguing that AT & T allowed his supervisor to create a hostile work environment ("sexual harassment that substantially interferes with an individual's employment"). 

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the District Judge that Rich's conduct was "crude, bullying [and] despicable" but "not actionable" under the Elliott Larson Civil Rights Act.  It held that Kalich had failed to prove that Rich's conduct towards him was "because of" his gender because it involved no sexual advances or sexual interest.  Under Michigan law, sexual orientation is not a protected classification, so harassment based on orientation is not the basis of a cognizable claim, and further, according to the appellate court, "teasing and name-calling" are not sufficient to state a claim for harassment.

Finally, the Court held that even the necrophilia comment was not the form of "extremely traumatic experience" that Michigan Courts recognize as constituting a hostile work environment. The Court deemed Kalich's proofs inadequate to show that A T & T actually had constructive notice of the hostile environment and failed to act on a timely basis.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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