Employment-Fifth Circuit Rules That Former Employee Has Made Out A Prima Facie Case Of Retaliation Under Title VII

In Royal v. CCC&R Tres Arboles, No. 12-11022 (5th Cir. 2013), the plaintiff, Tonia Royal (“Royal”), worked at an apartment complex for only four days before she was fired by defendant CCC&R Tres Arboles (“CCC&R”). During this brief time, she was regularly visited in her small office by two maintenance men who hovered over her and sniffed her in a sexually suggestive manner. When she complained to her superiors about this sexually harassing behavior, she was then fired for unspecific reasons. Royal then filed this suit, claiming retaliation in violation of Title VII for complaining to the supervisors. The district court granted summary judgment against her on the retaliation claim, and she appeals.

In analyzing the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said that Royal has shown genuine issues of disputed material facts whether the described conduct created a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, and, if so, whether her complaint about that conduct was causally related to her termination. As such, Royal has made out a prima facie case on her retaliation claim. Consequently, the Court vacated the district court’s summary judgment and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.