If is severe enough, one racist statement can create a hostile work environment, according to the United State Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court hears appeals for New York, Vermont and Connecticut.
As reported in The Legal Intelligencer , in the case Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc., the plaintiff alleged harassment, termination and retaliation because of the worker’s race, national origin and sexual orientation.
Details of the Daniel v. T&M Protection Resources, Inc. Appeal
The court concluded that the single use of the N-word as a severe racial slur was sufficient evidence to overcome the defense’s request for summary judgment in the hostile work environment claim. Previously, the district court had found in favor of the company, Protection Resources, which is located in Manhattan.
Daniel Otis worked as a fire safety director at the company and was eventually terminated in retaliation for his complaints of discriminatory treatment.
Among various derogatory comments the supervisor made about Daniel were slurs about his looking like a gorilla, complaints about his English accent and telling him to go back to England. He also rubbed his genitals against him and asked him whether he was gay. At one point the supervisor became angry and called him the N-word. A week after filing his complaint, Daniel was under investigation and then the company fired him for receiving personal mail at the workplace.
The district court found that use of a racial slur during one yelling incident was not enough to constitute a hostile work environment claim.
However, the appeals court ruled that the lower court erred in adjudicating that a one-time use of a severe racial slur did not support a hostile work environment claim. It was the court’s opinion that the use of the unambiguously racial epithet, “n—–,“ by a supervisor in the presence of his subordinates was a single act that can quickly alter employment conditions and create an abusive working environment.
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