Repeated Racial Slurs And Threatening Behavior Constitute Race Harassment

Unfortunately race discrimination in the work place continues to exist well into the 21st Century despite efforts to improve the working conditions for all employees. In order to help get rid of racism in the workplace, lawmakers enacted federal labor laws, including Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to rid the workplace from racial discrimination.

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees “because of” their race or color. This means they can’t take your race into account when making employment decisions such as hiring, firing, or promoting. Title VII also prohibits harassment and retaliation for complaining about discrimination. Harassment includes acts such as derogatory racial jokes or subtle company policies such as dress codes or English-only rules.

If you believe you have been subjected to any kind of discrimination – including race discrimination – at work it’s important to consult with an experienced Georgia race discrimination lawyer right away. A skilled Atlanta racial discrimination attorney can fight to stop the discriminating behavior and even help you recover compensation including front and back pay, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

A recent case serves as a harsh reminder of the type of conduct that continues to exist in many work places. InRivera v. Rochester Genesee Reg’l Transp. Auth. a New York Court determined that two workers were subjected to severe or pervasive racial harassment in violation of Title VII.

In Rivera, a Puerto Rican bus driver, Enio Rivera, and a black fueler-washer, Michael Talton, were forced to put up with repeated racist slurs and physical threats at a public transportation provider in New York.

Examples of the alleged harassing behavior included:

• Employees called Rivera “spic” and “Taco Bell”
• Supervisors and co-workers called Talton “n***er”
• After complaining about harassment, a supervisor told Talton to “suck it up and get over it, n***er.” A supervisor also threatened that Talton could lose his job if he submitted discrimination complaints.

Rivera alleged to he had internally complained about alleged harassment that included mechanics bullying him, staring and him menacingly and tampering with his time card slot. He was also sprayed with paint thinner. Despite complaining about the harassing behavior, none of Rivera’s concerns were addresses. Instead, he was disciplined for insubordination, assigned to drive “dirty busses” and was delayed in receiving overtime compensation.

Talton was subjected to similar harassing acts.

Talton contended that a white mechanic, as well as his white supervisor, repeatedly called him, “ni**er.” When he confronted the mechanic about his use of the slur, the mechanic allegedly approached Talton aggressively and said, “We could do this right here.” The same mechanic also purportedly told Talton that a co-worker said he “wished all you ni**rs died.” Another employee allegedly threatened Talton by “shaping his hand in the form of a gun and saying, ‘I’m going to kick your ass, ni**er.”

A New York court found that both men provided enough evidence of discrimination to go to trial noting that a “reasonable jury could conclude that Rivera’s detailed testimony about “extensive bullying and physical harassment” were “more than ‘mere offensive utterances,’ ” and instead contributed to a sufficiently severe or pervasive hostile environment under Title VII.

The appeals court ruled that Talton also established a triable hostile work environment claim based on the alleged repeated use of the racial slur, “ni**er,” by co-workers and his supervisor, as well as co-workers’ threats of physical violence.

“We emphasize that ‘[p]erhaps no single act can more quickly alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment than the use of an unambiguously racial epithet such as ‘ni**er’ by a supervisor in the presence of his subordinates,” the court said. “The use of racially offensive language is particularly likely to create a hostile work environment when, as here, it is presented in a ‘physically threatening’ manner.”

It is unfortunate that actions such as these still take place in the work place. If you or a loved one has been subjected to any form of racial discrimination or harassment, we urge you to contact our office right away to fight for you. For more information or to set up an appointment, contact the dedicated Georgia race discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP right away!