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Court to rehear hostile environment, asbestos cases

The en banc 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals plans September rehearing of two recent cases that drew attention, one involving allegations of a coworker’s racist epithets and another claiming harm from a makeup line that contained asbestos.

In May, the Richmond-based court upheld summary judgment for an employer in a restaurant hostess’s Title VII suit alleging hostile environment and retaliatory discharge.

Plaintiff Reya Boyer-Liberto alleged a coworker at the Ocean City, Md., Clarion Resort Hotel called her a “porch monkey” on two consecutive days. The three-judge panel agreed that current 4th Circuit precedent requires an “accumulation” of instances of harassment, and Boyer-Liberto alleged only isolated instances of racially derogatory statements. One judge dissented on the grant of summary judgment on the retaliation claim. The case is set to be reargued Sept. 18.

The court also ordered rehearing of its April refusal of Colgate-Palmolive’s attempt to keep in federal court consumers’ claims of asbestos exposure from the company’s “Cashmere Bouquet” makeup line.

The 2-1 panel decision said remand orders are not reviewable on appeal, and the Baltimore federal court was correct in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to revisit its remand order. Oral argument on rehearing will be held between Sept. 16 and Sept. 19, the court’s order says.

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