"Personal animosity" of co-worker does not constitute hostile environment despite "stray remarks."
Darcy Schmitt sued the City of East Lansing, arguing that she was exposed to a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment by a co-worker. The trial judge concluded that the co-worker's actions were simply evidence of personal animosity that developed after Schmitt won a promotion that the co-worker sought, and that the sexual comments alleged were irrelevant "stray remarks."
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. It pointed out that personal animosity alone will not support a hostile work environment claim as the hostile environment must include communication or conduct "on the basis of sex." The Court also pointed out that, in any event, Schmitt's employer responded appropriately to the co-worker's actions through escalating disciplinary steps ultimately leading to the co-worker's resignation. Since the employer reacted promptly and appropriately, it was not vicariously liable for the co-worker's inappropriate behavior.