David C. Cox, 9 Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal 311 (Fall, 1998) Fourteenth Amendment--due Process, Equal Protection and Law Against Discrimination--material Issue of Fact as to Whether County Sheriff Engaged in Discriminatory Harassment by Uttering One Racial Epithet That Was Sufficiently Severe to Create a Hostile Work Environment and Would Cause a Reasonable African American to Suffer Severe Emotional Distress Precluded Summary Judgment For Sheriff--taylor V. Metzger, 152 N.j. 490, 706 A.2d 685 (1998).
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that a rational factfinder could conclude that there was a material issue of fact as to whether a county sheriff engaged in discriminatory harassment by uttering a racial epithet that was sufficiently severe to have created a hostile work environment and that would result in severe emotional distress to an average African American, and thus, precluded summary judgment in favor of the sheriff. Taylor v. Metzger, 152 N.J. 490, 706 A.2d 685 (1998). In so holding, the Court reasoned that there was sufficient evidence to support a claim asserting a violation of the Law Against Discrimination ("LAD"), and intentional infliction of emotional distress. See id. at 508, 706 A.2d at 693. The Court found that a rational factfinder might reasonably conclude that a single racial slur by a superior to a subordinate employee could rise to the level of severity necessary to maintain a LAD claim. See id., 706 A.2d at 693-94. Therefore, the Court concluded that a jury should have decided the outcome, and summary judgment was inappropriate. See id., 706 A.2d at 694. Although the Taylor decision expands the threshold requirements of the Law Against Discrimination and the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, such an expansion only results in the introduction of the issues before a jury, not the expansion of the standards themselves.