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Sixth Circuit dismisses racial discrimination claim brought by 11 black workers

Eleven black employees sued SuperValu Holdings and several individuals, arguing that the defendants maintained an employment environment that is hostile to African-Americans. They provided a "detailed list" of racially-hostile behavior, including vulgar graffiti, overtly racist comments and racially motivated pranks occurring over their 25 years of employment.  The lower court deemed the incidents so isolated and sporadic that they did not constitute a hostile work environment, and the workers appealed.

In particular, the employees objected to the Court's determination that it would not consider the totality of wrongful conduct in assessing the impact on any given employee.  Instead, it judged each individual's case solely on the basis of misconduct directed at that employee or made known to him or her.  The Court of Appeals majority agreed with this method of evaluation.  The dissenting judge disagreed and would have held that the detailed list of "reprehensible" acts should be considered, in determining whether SuperValu maintained a work environment that is hostile to black employees.

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