Hoff v. Spring House Tavern, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78782 (E.D. Pa. 6/5/13)

Plaintiff cannot sustain a constructive discharge claim based upon one discriminatory comment and incident.

The plaintiff asserted a hostile work environment and constructive discharge claim after he resigned from his employment in February 2010. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that when he arrived to work, he inquired as to whether he had to move his truck from the parking lot. The plaintiff alleged that his co-worker, who was directing traffic at the time, replied, "Yes, you're lucky. If I had my white-hooded sheet on, I would have taken your…truck." The plaintiff believed his co-worker was making a reference to the Ku Klux Klan and informed his co-worker that he was offended by the comment. The plaintiff then complained about the comment to one of the owners, who later informed the plaintiff that she had terminated the co-worker as a result of the comment. A few minutes later, the owner informed the plaintiff that the co-worker would not be terminated and asked the plaintiff if he wanted to leave or stay. The plaintiff informed the owner that he did not feel comfortable working there, resigned and then filed a complaint of discrimination—alleging that he was constructively discharged. The court, however, disagreed and held that the plaintiff could not establish a constructive discharge claim as a matter of law. In so holding, the court reasoned that "[f]or a single incident to serve as the basis for a claim of constructive discharge, an employment discrimination plaintiff may simply face a more difficult burden of proof in establishing the employer's liability" and that "we cannot say the incident…, which constituted a single comment in a brief conversation, was so intolerable that a reasonable person in Plaintiff's position would feel compelled to resign."

Case Law Alert, 3rd Quarter 2013