Racial discrimination in the workplace is not limited to refusing to hire someone based on their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group. All New York employees have the right to work in an environment free of racism and racial harassment. In other words, if management tolerates the use of racial slurs or other racist language against certain employees, the employer can be held liable for employment discrimination.
Two Workers Allegedly Fired for Complaining About Racist Supervisors
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently charged a Massapequa, Long Island, company with “creating and tolerating a hostile work environment” against its black and Hispanic employees. On August 14 the EEOC filed a formal complaint against the employer in federal court, seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages for the employees allegedly affected by the company's discriminatory acts. As always, a complaint is simply a statement of allegations; this case has not yet been adjudicated.
The EEOC's complaint identified four employees who were targets of the purported hostile work environment. The EEOC said the employer's supervisors frequently used ethnic slurs, e.g., “spic,” the N-word, and “dumb-in-a-can,” the latter being a derogatory reference to people from the Dominican Republic. The EEOC said the employer had no “policy or process” in place for employees to report this type of race-based harassment, so it continued for well over a year until one of the employees filed a charge with the EEOC.
The EEOC has further alleged the employer engaged in illegal retaliation against two employees for complaining about their harassment. The employee who filed the EEOC complaint was fired. A second employee was “constructively discharged,” the EEOC said, as the employer systematically reduced his working hours until he was told “he could no longer report to work” and was forced to quit.
Following its initial investigation, the EEOC said it invited the employer to engage in “informal methods of conciliation” designed to “eliminate its unlawful practices.” But according to the agency's complaint, these efforts were unsuccessful. In a statement, an attorney for the EEOC's New York office said, “The abuse was so pervasive in this case that its tolerance was especially troubling.”
You Do Not Have to Tolerate Racial Harassment
Another EEOC attorney noted that “even one utterance of a racial slur by a supervisor in the workplace can constitute legally actionable harassment.” The key is whether or not the employer takes immediate and appropriate corrective action to ensure that a one-time slur does not become a common practice. Even if supervisors and co-workers think making such statements are just a form “joking around,” it is never acceptable to make derogatory remarks about a person's race or national origin.
If you have been the victim of racial harassment or any other kind of hostile work environment, you do not have to suffer in silence. An experienced New York employment law attorney can review your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Contact the Law Office of Mahir S. Nisar in New York City or Long Island if you need to speak with a qualified racial discrimination lawyer today.