Another Egregious N-Word Workplace Harassment Case

One could be understandably troubled by my post of August 15th, entitled “Does One Noose In The Workplace Constitute A Hostile Work Environment? If Not, How Many?”  What is this?  Why the absurd question?

Well, the title simply set forth the precise legal issue for which an employee is now seeking Supreme Court review — troubling  indeed.

If readers had read beyond the title, they would have read the very first sentence:  “The issue today is how many times must an African-American employee endure the sight of a hanging noose, or suffer other crude and offensive racial or other epithets, for the situation to become a hostile work environment and racial harassment?”


The issue of workplace racial harassment – severe or pervasive – is not going away any time soon.  And it is very troubling.

Take a look at a newly-filed EEOC lawsuit charging race-based harassment of black employees by supervisors and co-workers at a Buffalo company. The harassment as alleged by the EEOC appears to be both severe and pervasive, and uses the ever-present “N-word,” seemingly always present in racial harassment cases.

The complaint alleges that since 2011, the employer subjected black employees “to a race-based hostile work environment.  The mistreatment included the regular and open use of slurs such as ‘n—-r,’ ‘monkey” and ‘coon,’ as well racist graffiti in common areas, featuring phrases such as ‘n—–s must die.’”

The company’s superintendent, it is alleged, also harassed an employee of Haitian national origin yelling “We don’t work with terrorists! Only American citizens work here!”

It is alleged that the harassment was visible to management, who also took many complaints from the employees – but did nothing but threaten the employees with termination.  In fact, when one of the plaintiffs “stood up to a co-worker who pursued him while calling him ‘n—–r’” and ‘f—-t, [the] superintendent confronted [plaintiff] with a stick and fired him.”

I said the other day that “Whenever offensive racial slurs against black employees are uttered in the workplace, it seems that the N-word is always first among the slurs.  Always.  And in my review of the cases, second place in the frequency of racial slurs or threats goes to hanging nooses in the workplace.”

Takeaway:  Nooses and racial slurs — anyone still doubt that this takes place in 21st century America?



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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]