Displaying Racially Offensive Symbols

New York Attorneys Dedicated to Protecting the Rights of Workers

Racism and symbols related to it are not acceptable in New York workplaces. Employers that display or allow employees to display these inappropriate images have likely violated U.S. and state law. The racial discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates have significant experience litigating these types of claims in New York. If your employer condones or encourages the posting of racist symbols, you may be able to take legal action to stop this behavior.

Display of Racist Symbols May Constitute Unlawful Harassment

Most people know that racial discrimination in the workplace is illegal. For instance, an employer cannot refuse to hire a qualified employee simply because of his or her race. A more obscure form of behavior prohibited by federal, state, and local law is hostile work environment harassment. The law defines this situation in two ways. The first is conduct that unreasonably interferes with an employee’s ability to do his or her job. The second is the existence of an offensive or intimidating atmosphere at work, viewed through the eyes of a reasonable person.

As a practical matter, an employer can create a hostile work environment based on race in many ways. Displaying racially offensive symbols is one of them. For instance, allowing an employee to display a swastika, confederate flag, a noose, or a racist cartoon or drawing may create a hostile work environment. Whether the images are posted in a public area, hung in a person’s office, or distributed over email is irrelevant. Additionally, these symbols are usually accompanied by racially offensive slurs or jokes.

To be considered a hostile work environment under Federal and New York State law, the offensive behavior must be either severe or pervasive. For example, if an employee hangs a racist cartoon in his or her office but has second thoughts a day later and removes it, this may not be severe or pervasive enough to form the basis of a valid claim under Federal and New York State Law. However, a steadily accumulating array of these images may rise to the level of harassment. Additionally, the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) offers greater protection to employees working within the five boroughs of New York so one racially offensive symbol may be enough. To be considered a hostile work environment under the NYCHRL, the offensive behavior must be above a petty slight or trivial inconvenience. If you have been a victim of racially offensive symbols in the workplace, call our attorneys today for a free consultation at 212-248-7431.

United States and New York Law Prohibit Racial Discrimination and Harassment

In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, a law that prohibits racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This Act applies to any employer in New York with at least 15 employees. The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law also prohibit racial harassment and discrimination. These laws apply to employers that have four or more employees, making them more expansive than the Civil Rights Act.

To seek a remedy under Federal law, a worker must first file an administrative claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency will investigate the claim and then either pursue a lawsuit on your behalf or issue you a Right to Sue, which clears the way for a claim in federal or state court.

Discuss Your Discrimination Claim with a New York Lawyer

You have the right to work in an environment free of racial harassment. If an employer has participated in or allowed others to engage in prohibited behavior, you may be entitled to damages and a court order to stop the offensive behavior. A harassment attorney from Phillips & Associates will gladly meet with you to inform you of your rights and help you fight injustice in a New York workplace. To schedule a free consultation, call (212) 248-7431 or visit our contact page.

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