Online forums and social media services are filled with people making vulgar, misogynist, and racist comments, but such comments have no place in New York's workplaces. If a supervisor consistently uses such derogatory language toward employees, it can and will be treated by regulators and the courts as a form of illegal employment discrimination.
Discrimination in the Workplace
For instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's New York office recently filed a lawsuit against an Ithaca-based manufacturer over allegations that the company's management “subjected its employees to an ugly mix of sexism, racism, and xenophobia.” The EEOC said this manager's actions created a hostile work environment and led to the illegal firing of at least one employee.
According to the EEOC's complaint, filed in Binghamton federal court, the defendant's owner and CEO “makes misogynist comments” to the company's female employees on a “frequent basis,” including calling them “dumb” and “very stupid.” In at least one case, the CEO allegedly told a female employee she would not receive a raise on account of her sex.
Even more disturbing are the EEOC's allegations with respect to a plant manager employed by the defendant. Based on the EEOC's investigation, this manager also made misogynist comments to female employees–referring to them as “bitches” who were incapable of performing non-office jobs at the plant–and repeatedly made “jokes about sex and female bodies, including jokes about oral sex and large breasts” during work hours. In addition, the manager also engaged in a series of racist acts towards a female African-American employee, using the N-word in her presence and telling her that her husband “should have a rope put around his neck and be dragged through a cotton field.” When the employee subsequently complained to human resources, the manager responded by accusing her of racism “for not finding his comments funny.” Eventually, the plant manager fired the employee, ostensible for performance-related reasons, but which the EEOC deemed “pretextual” and a cover for the manager's overt racism.
The EEOC's lawsuit seeks not only a court injunction to prevent future employment discrimination on the part of the defendant, but also compensation for the fired employee, including “appropriate backpay” and either reinstatement to her former position or “front pay in lieu of reinstatement.” The EEOC also wants the defendant to pay for the “job search expenses and medical expenses” of “similarly aggrieved female employees” affected by the defendant's hostile work environment.
Speak with a New York Sex Discrimination Lawyer Today
The EEOC's lawsuit is a statement of allegations. The case remains pending before a federal judge, and as of this writing the defendant has not responded to the government's allegations. The details of the EEOC's complaint illustrate the types of conduct that constitute illegal employment discrimination–and all New York employers must take affirmative steps to identify and prevent such activity in their own businesses.
If you are an employee who has been the victim of sex or race discrimination at work, contact the qualified New York employment law attorneys at White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, to learn more about your legal options.