Corporations Can’t Be Harassed


According to the U.S. Supreme Court, corporations have First Amendment rights, at least to the extent that they can make monetary contributions to political candidates.*  However, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently identified one way in which corporations are not the same as people - corporations can't suffer a hostile work-environment.**  

In Allstate Sweeping, a woman-owned power-washing company alleged (among other claims) that an African American municipal employee created a hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.  Specifically, Allstate Sweeping LLC asserted that Ms. Black made its contract with the city unprofitable and made its owners' lives miserable.

The Tenth Circuit concluded that no claim could be stated by Allstate Sweeping LLC, as a hostile work environment claim requires proof that the plaintiff was offended by the work environment.  "Being offended presupposes feelings or thoughts that an artificial entity (as opposed to its employees or owners) cannot experience."  (Emphasis in original.)

* Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).

** Allstate Sweeping, L.L.C. v. Black, No. 12-1027 (10th Cir. Feb. 7, 2013).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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