Phillips & Associates

Racist Images and Paraphernalia in Philadelphia

Workplace Harassment Lawyers Serving Philadelphia and Surrounding Areas

In Philadelphia, racist images and paraphernalia in workplaces is prohibited. Employers that permit employees to display these images in the workplace may be held accountable for the damages caused. The Philadelphia race discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates have significant experience litigating claims related to racist images and paraphernalia, as well as racist comments and jokes. You should contact our offices if you have been subjected to this type of racial discrimination or harassment. The posting of racist images and paraphernalia is simply not acceptable.

Racist Images and Paraphernalia

Race discrimination is illegal under federal, state, and local laws in Philadelphia. Companies are not allowed to make employment based on a person’s actual or perceived race, such as hiring, firing, promotions, raises, performance improvement plans (PIPs), etc. Therefore, a prospective employer cannot to refuse to hire you because you are Black. Your supervisor cannot refuse to put you in a customer-facing position because you are Asian American, and he believes that Asian Americans should be “behind the scenes”.

Another type of racial discrimination is racial harassment. This is where comments or conduct of a racial nature, such as jokes, racist cartoons, derogatory names/comments, or even nooses or swastikas, occur at work. When such conduct is so severe or so pervasive that it creates an abusive or hostile work environment, it can give rise to legally actionable claims. Generally, nooses and swastikas are severe enough racist paraphernalia that only a single occurrence can create a hostile work environment.

Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits racial harassment that is severe or pervasive enough to change a plaintiff's workplace conditions and generate an abusive working environment. If the hostile work environment is created by coworkers who do not supervise the plaintiff, the employer will not be automatically liable. Instead, the employer will be liable if it did not provide a reasonable grievance procedure or if it knew or should have known about the harassment but failed to take prompt remedial measures. For example, if your manager knew that coworkers were putting nooses on your desk and told you to learn to deal with it, the employer might be liable under federal law. Title VII caps compensatory and punitive damages based on the size of your employer.

State Law

Similarly, to establish a hostile work environment claim under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), a claimant and their attorney must show that they suffered from intentional discrimination because of their race, the discrimination was severe or pervasive in nature, the behavior detrimentally affected the employee, the behavior would have detrimentally affect a reasonable person in similar circumstances, and employer liability exists under the doctrine of respondeat superior. However, the employee cannot rely only on comments or actions directed at other employees to show intentional discrimination against himself or herself. Yet, the court can consider comments or behavior directed at co-workers if the employee can show that there is a connection between the behavior directed at the coworkers and the behavior directed at himself or herself. For example, if racist comments are directed at other employees who are Black, in addition to racist images directed at you, this might be strong evidence for a hostile work environment claim.

The court will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the racist images and paraphernalia constituted a hostile work environment. Factors that will be considered include how often the discriminatory actions occurred, how severe they were, whether there were physical threats or humiliation, and whether it unreasonably interfered with work performance. Note that punitive damages cannot be recovered under the state law.

Local Law

Like its federal and state counterparts, the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance also prohibits racial harassment on the basis of actual race or perceived race. The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) has the authority to enforce this ordinance and issue orders that require your employer to fix any harm caused by racist images and paraphernalia. Through the Commission, you may be able to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages of up to $2,000, back pay, injunctive relief, and more.

Discuss Your Potential Discrimination Case with a Philadelphia Lawyer

Racist images and paraphernalia have no place in a place of employment, and they can cause deep pain, emotional suffering, and stress. If you are dealing with this issue in your workplace, you should consult the experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Contact us at (215) 315-7694 or via our online form for a free consultation.

1635 Market St #1600A
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 315-7694
Fax: (212) 901-2107

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