Being a jerk is a legal defense, so to speak. An “equal opportunity jerk” is a boss who treats everyone badly, regardless of race, religion, gender, etc. If his subordinates sue, alleging an unlawful hostile environment, they’ll likely have trouble establishing that the jerk was more of a jerk to one particular group of employees based on a protected characteristic.
It is a defense that defense lawyers prefer to not to have to invoke. Nevertheless, when the facts are there, even an unattractive defense can be a winner. Take, for example, the Third Circuit’s decision in Clayton v. City of Atlantic City.
The plaintiff was a police officer in the Atlantic City Police Department, who alleged that she was subject to the sexual advances of a senior officer. This went on for a number of years until, eventually, she came under his direct supervision.