Can mild teasing result in a hostile work environment? In the case of one Croatian employee, yes.
Here’s how the 11th Circuit weighed in on the issue.
Mocking, rude behavior
Rajko Dugandzic worked for Nike when he began to have issues with his direct supervisor.
Dugandzic’s manager would frequently mock his accent in front of other employees, both in the break room and over the store’s intercom system.
The supervisor also behaved rudely toward Dugandzic, often by refusing to greet him or yelling “Boo!” in his face. Dugandzic then filed a hostile work environment claim on the basis of national origin discrimination.
Nike tried to argue what happened wasn’t national origin bias, because the manager didn’t know Dugandzic was from Croatia. The 11th Circuit rejected this argument.
“If she was mocking his ‘foreign accent,’” the court said, “it follows that she could be harassing him based on his national origin even if she didn’t know the specific national origin.”
This case shows that discrimination and hostile work environments can occur even in less severe instances.
Cite: Dugandzic v. Nike, 3/30/20.