Phillips & Associates

Racial Slurs in the Workplace

New York Racial Discrimination Lawyers

Despite significant social advances in the last 60 years, racial discrimination in the workplace is a serious ongoing problem, even in New York. Sometimes employers discriminate against employees by treating a group of employees differently than others of a different race, which is called disparate treatment. Other times, the problem may be that a particular person is being harassed or working in a hostile work environment because of an employer’s or coworker’s use of racial slurs. The New York employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates will fight for workers whose rights are violated by the use of racial slurs in the workplace.

Racial Slurs Can Create a Hostile Workplace

The use of racial epithets by an employer, coworkers, or even a third party onsite is a form of unlawful racial discrimination. Whether the racial slurs are being directed at you or simply used around you, it can create a hostile work environment. As we successfully argued in a recent and groundbreaking federal case, this can be true even when such terms are used toward an employee by someone of the same race. In addition to racial slurs, racial jokes or verbalizing racial stereotypes can all create such an environment. In order for conduct to create a hostile work environment, it must be either severe or pervasive, meaning just one incident is often not enough.

Federal, State, and New York City Laws Protect Workers

There are several laws that protect the rights of workers in New York by banning the use of racial slurs at work. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the use of verbal comments — including racial slurs and jokes — that create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. This federal law also covers slurs, comments, or jokes that unreasonably affect the performance of the worker. Title VII applies only to employers who have 15 or more employees. Plaintiffs who bring a successful suit under Title VII can win compensatory and, in some cases, punitive damages.

The New York State Human Rights Law protects workers in much the same way as the federal Civil Rights Act. Humiliating or offensive jokes, comments, or slurs directed at a person’s race or ethnicity are prohibited. Unlike the federal law, however, the state law applies to employees who have only four or more employees, so its coverage is broader. This law allows for both compensatory and punitive damages.

In addition to the federal and state laws, workers in New York City are protected by the New York City Human Rights Law. The city’s law prohibits discriminatory harassment on the basis of race. As is true under the federal and state standards, workers who bring a successful suit under the New York City Human Rights Law can be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.

Preserve Your Rights

The use of racial slurs, jokes, or comments in the work place is prohibited by federal, state, and local law. If someone at your job is using racial slurs that make you uncomfortable, you do not have to tolerate it. The New York employment discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates have experience helping the victims of racial discrimination protect their rights. If you believe that your coworkers’ or employer’s use of racial slurs has violated your rights, fill out the form on our contact page or call us at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107

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