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Racial Slurs and Racial Harassment

Racial Slurs, Offensive Racial Speech, Racial Jokes and Racial Symbols, at Work

What Sort of Conduct May Be Illegal?

Racial slurs, directed at you, or another person of your race, which you heard, or heard repeated. Racial slurs are offensive words used to describe persons of a race, a particular color, country or faith.

Racial jokes, that portray persons of your race, color, faith or country in a negative way may be illegal. The fact that someone is joking does not make their conduct acceptable.

Racial cartoons, which portray persons of your race, color, faith or country in a negative way, may be illegal.

Offensive symbols, such as the noose, the confederate flag, Klu Klux Klan (KKK) hats or robes, Nazi paraphernalia, and other symbols of racist beliefs, are almost always illegal in the workplace.

When is Your Employer Legally Responsible for Racial Harassment?

Where a manager witnesses the harassment but the employer fails to end it; where someone complains, but the employer fails to end it, or where the harasser has harassed others before you, and the employer knew about it. You do not have to show the employer was aware of the harassment if it has no written policy against racial harassment, the harassment was committed by an owner or top officer, or you can prove you were subjected to retaliation when you complained.

You also have to show that the harassment was severe, or common enough to alter your working conditions. For example, knowing you are likely to hear something racially offensive when you encounter someone. It does not have to happen every day, or even every week, but it does have to be something you have come to expect, and want to avoid. The display of a noose, threatening to hang an African-American, or the display of Klu Klux Klan (KKK) hats or robes are severe enough that one incident can make the workplace a threatening environment.

What Should You Do if You are Experiencing Racial Harassment?

Make sure your harasser knows that you find it offensive. If you can solve the problem on your own you are better off. If it ends, move on. Complaints to management rarely have happy endings.

Preserve evidence: Racial comments are often texted, or emailed. Save them. Take a photo with your cell phone of offensive postings. Ask your coworkers for signed statements; once you make a complaint, they will be too scared. But before you secretly record a conversation, make sure it is legal in your state, and understand that the consequences of getting caught may be getting fired.

If management has been aware of the harassment and allowed it to continue, the most likely result of a complaint will be retaliation. Even when management is unaware, speak to an attorney before you complain. An attorney can help you collect evidence, which will you give you the option of making a formal complaint backed by proof, or, when appropriate, going to court.

If you think you are being racially harassed at work, please email us any questions you have, call us at 888-369-1119, or fill out one of our forms online. Your consultation will be free and confidential. If you read our questionnaire below, and email us your answers, it will help us evaluate your case.

Racial Harassment Questionnaire

If you would like us to evaluate your situation, please provide complete answers to the following questions. Our correspondence will be confidential and there is no charge for this consultation.

Please describe the Racial Harassment in detail. Tell us what was said or done. Give us as many examples as you can recall. Tell us how often you were harassed (hourly, daily, weekly, whenever the manager visited), and when the last time was. Tell us who the witnesses are, and what the evidence is. For example, do you have witness statements, letters, text messages, or tapes?

Please explain whether the employer knew of the harassment, how it learned, and what evidence there is that it was aware of the harassment. If it was reported, who reported it, to whom, and when? Was it a written report? Do you have a copy?

If the Racial Harassment was reported, did that stop it, or did the Racial harassment continue after you reported it?

Was there any retaliation after the harassment was reported, and if so, please describe it.

Does your employer have an employee manual that has instructions on how to make a complaint about Racial harassment, and if so, what does it say?

In what state and city did this happen?

About how many employees work at your employer (less than 15, less than 100)?

Was your harasser your supervisor, a co-worker, or something else (explain).

Are others affected by the racial harassment? Please explain.

What is your race?

Please provide the names, cell phone numbers and email addresses of witnesses to the harassment and reporting who would be willing to be interviewed and provide a written statements. No calls will be made without your prior approval.

E-mail your question about Hostile Work Environment.

You may call or fax me if you prefer:
Friedman & Houlding LLP
Representing Victims of Sexual Harassment for 15 Years
Phone: 888-369-1119 Fax: 866-731-5553

- All correspondence strictly confidential -