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Racial Harassment

Employment Attorneys Advocating for New York City Workers

When you come to work, you expect to be judged on your performance, rather than your racial background. It is stressful to face harassment in the workplace based on your identity. Racial harassment can include any intimidation, violence, harassing remarks, or coercion that is motivated by your actual or perceived race. If you are racially harassed at work, you may be able to sue for damages. You should consult the New York City racial harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates about your situation.

Racial Harassment Under the City Law

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits racial harassment. You are covered by the city law for the purposes of a racial harassment lawsuit if you work for an employer with at least four employees. To claim a hostile work environment, you need to show that you were treated less well than other employees due to your race. You will need to show that you faced more than trivial or petty mistreatment.

Racial slurs or imagery could create a hostile work environment. For example, if your supervisor puts a noose on your desk because you are black, this may create a hostile work environment. Similarly, if your coworkers call you the n-word, this may constitute a hostile work environment. If your manager tries to humiliate and demean you by calling you a token angry black woman in front of your white coworkers, a hostile work environment may be created.

If your supervisor or manager is responsible for the racial harassment, a racial harassment attorney in New York City should be able to hold your employer liable under the city law. If your coworkers are racially harassing you, you should let your supervisor or HR know about the racial harassment to give them an opportunity to investigate and fix the situation. If they do not provide an adequate remedy, an attorney can hold the employer accountable.

Racial Harassment Under State or Federal Law

To recover damages under the New York State Human Rights Law for racial harassment, you will need to show that your workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, insults, or ridicule that is sufficiently pervasive or severe to change the conditions of your employment and create an abusive work environment. To decide whether a hostile work environment exists, the court needs to consider all the circumstances, including how often the discriminatory conduct occurred, its severity, whether it unreasonably interfered with your work performance, and whether the conduct was humiliating or physically threatening. A trivial or one-off incident may not rise to the level of an actionable hostile work environment under state law, but you should discuss your situation with an experienced New York City racial harassment attorney. Similarly, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that the racial harassment be severe or pervasive enough to make your work environment abusive or hostile.

If you are a black person who faces racial slurs and jokes from your coworkers regularly for months, and your supervisor ignores your complaints, this is likely pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment. Similarly, if a coworker assaulted you in the work locker room because of your race, this would likely be severe enough to constitute racial harassment.


City, state, and federal laws prohibit retaliation for complaining about racial harassment. Complaining about racial harassment is a protected activity. Whether you let HR know about the harassment, or you file a charge with the EEOC, your employer should not take an adverse step against you because of your complaint. There is greater protection from retaliation under the New York City Human Rights Law than there is under state and federal laws, just as there is greater protection against harassment. To show unlawful retaliation under the city law, you will need to show that you were engaged in a protected activity under the city law, your employer was aware that you participated in that activity, your employer engaged in actions that were reasonably likely to deter you from making a complaint, and there was a causal connection between your complaining of racial harassment and the retaliatory behavior. For example, even if the remarks that you received from coworkers are considered too slight to count as harassment under the city law, if you were terminated because you complained about those remarks to HR, you may be able to recover damages from your employer for retaliation.

Discuss Your Options with a Racial Harassment Lawyer in New York City

If you were harmed by racial harassment in a New York City workplace, you should consult a seasoned employment law attorney. Phillips & Associates represents victims of racial harassment in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, along with Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Contact us at (833) 529-3476 or via our online form.

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