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Confederate Flag License Plate Does Not Create a Hostile Work Environment Based on Race

    Client Alerts
  • August 03, 2015
The recent tragic shooting in Charleston reignited debate nationwide regarding the appropriateness of public displays of the Confederate battle flag. Earlier this year, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a co-worker’s display of the flag on a license plate could not form the basis for a racial harassment claim against his employer. In Clay v. UPS, Inc., the African-American plaintiff alleged that he complained about the flag on a co-worker’s car in the company’s parking lot. He claims that in response, his supervisor told him that he was free to display a “Black Panthers” license plate on his own vehicle.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim on summary judgment. The court agreed that as a matter of law, the alleged conduct did not create a severe and pervasive environment based on race. UPS did not display the flag on company premises, and by simply allowing his vehicle on company premises, it did not endorse the co-worker’s display. Many employers prohibit Confederate flags on their premises when placed on shirts, stickers, or other items actually brought into the workplace. However, failure to extend this ban to employee personal vehicles will not be considered race discrimination or harassment.