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Harris v. Cobra Constr. (3d Cir. 2008)

Posted in Harassment

Two African-American employees claimed that the owner of the company pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them and made threatening, racially-biased remarks. These events occurred while the employees were witnesses to a confrontation between the owner and a business agent. The employees claimed they experienced apprehension of imminent harmful contact and as a result felt forced to resign. They sued for race discrimination under Title VII and Pennsylvania state law. The district court granted summary judgment.

Held: The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting plaintiffs’ argument that the combination of a racial slur and death threat is direct evidence of discrimination. The court found that plaintiffs failed to show they were treated as they were because of race, rather than because they were witnesses to the confrontation. The court concluded that the events were insufficient to show harassment, much less constructive discharge.