Judge states that one student can create a hostile work environment for a special education teacher
Updated: Jul 25
On February 4, 2022, a magistrate judge recommended summary judgment be denied on Plaintiff's hostile work environment and retaliation claims. This was affirmed and incorporated by the district judge on July 22, 2022.
Of significance, the decision sets precedent for special education teachers who claim they are experiencing a discriminatory hostile work environment due to the behavior of students. DOE had argued that because there is no articulated standard in this circuit for what a special education teacher must demonstrate to establish an objectively severe hostile work environment, Mr. Ringel could not establish that a "reasonable special education teacher" would have considered the student's behavior severe (arguing that special education teachers have a higher tolerance for poor behavior and it's part of their job duties). Moreover, they argued that because it was just one behaviorally challenged student harassing Mr. Ringel, instead of a classroom of students, Mr. Ringel’s claims must fail. However, the Court disagreed and held that a single student's discriminatory conduct towards a special education teacher was of a kind that a jury could reasonably conclude created a hostile work environment. Thus, this lays the groundwork for other special education teachers to have the same protections against discriminatory hostile work environments as non-special education teachers have.
Read the entire decision here. Contact us at ghnylaw.com if you need assistance.