Kengerski v. Harper

Kengerski, a Captain at the Allegheny County Jail, made a written complaint to the jail Warden alleging that a colleague had called his biracial grand-niece a “monkey” and then sent him a series of text messages with racially offensive comments about his coworkers. Seven months later, Kengerski was fired. He contended the County fired him in retaliation for reporting his colleague’s behavior and sued the County under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). The District Court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Kengerski, who is white, could not maintain a claim for Title VII retaliation. The Third Circuit disagreed and vacated, holding that Title VII protects all employees from retaliation when they reasonably believe that behavior at their work violates the statute and they make a good-faith complaint. As relevant here, harassment against an employee because he associates with a person of another race, such as a family member, may violate Title VII by creating a hostile work environment. Summary judgment was not appropriate because a reasonable person could believe that the Allegheny County Jail was a hostile work environment for Kengerski.

Kengerski