"You All's President"

It’s not only the EEOC which is litigating cases of racial harassment which hit the news – today’s post is about a recent case arising out of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Iowa?  A beacon of civil rights?

Who knew?

Apparently, a business owner in West Des Moines was hit with a $14,700 judgment (lost wages and damages) by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on behalf of a 62-year-old black part-time employee.  It was alleged that the employer referred to the employee and his black co-worker as “you people,” called them “worthless” and “stupid,” and followed this with  “epithets” [betcha you can guess what those “epithets” were, although the Sioux City news report was a little squeamish about using the term].

It was also alleged that the business owner told the employee that President Obama was “you all’s president,” and “once complained that ‘I gotta teach you everything. You people don’t pick up on (expletive) if it’s not a basketball or football.’”

Nice touch.

The employee testified that the employer cut his hours and refused to pay his wages – he then quit.

The most striking thing about this case – since readers know from this blog that the fact pattern here, with the unidentified but hardly disguised racial “epithet” is quite common in the modern workplace, is that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission “filed a lawsuit against [the employer] this month in district court seeking to collect the damages — a rare formal enforcement action for the agency.”

To me this is a stunning thing – the state agency suing to enforce its own judgment on behalf of an employee.

For his part, the employer said that the judgment was “a railroad job” by a disgruntled former employee: “The whole thing was a lie,” he said, and the hung up on the reporter.

Fake news? SAD.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 152 other subscribers

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]