Despite significant advances, race discrimination continues to be a problem at many workplaces. A recent case has determined that an employee who suffered verbal assaults such as being called the “n word” by his boss can proceed with his claim for a hostile work environment.
In Taylor v. Bob-Rohr-Indy Motors, an African American car salesman – Johnny Taylor – endured pushing and disrespectful comments from his sales manager, James Mueller. Here, a series of incidents occurred over several weeks including Mueller using a disrespectful tone when asking for assistance, telling Taylor he was “not a man of his word” when he failed to bring in food for a salespersons’ lunch, and punching Taylor in the shoulder and stated that “you think we owe y’all people something.”
Despite the offensive nature of these comments and actions, Taylor failed to submit a written report to his supervisor. Taylor subsequently went to the EEOC to find out about filing charges based on religion and disability, but not race.
Mueller continued to taunt Taylor, with Taylor becoming angry and threatening Mueller after calling he called him the “n word” and said, don’t you be standing in front of me.” After being sent home for the weekend, Taylor filed an EEOC claim based on race harassment.
The court determined that the alleged actions constituted sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment, and allowed Taylor’s claim to proceed. The court reasoned that despite conflicting testimony, a genuine issue of fact existed whether Taylor was subjected to derogatory comments and racial slurs. Further, no evidence suggested that Taylor welcomed or participated in the use of the racially charged words. As such, a reasonable jury could find that the language was unwelcome and based on his race.
The court was also not persuaded by Indy Motors argument that Taylor was not bothered by the comments as evidenced by his failure to complain in writing. The Seventh Circuit has recognized that the use of racial epithets by a supervisor impacts a worker’s environment severely and verbal complaints may be used evidence of the pervasiveness and severity of the alleged harassment.
Unfortunately, many employees still face race discrimination and racial slurs while at work. Title VII was enacted to prohibit employers from discrimination against their employees because of your color. If you or someone you know has been the victim of race or color discrimination, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP to find out how we can help.