It seems obvious that it cannot allow the use of racial slurs in the workplace to refer to a co-workers. But, can an employer be held liable for one of its employee’s written racist messages in the workplace? This question was just posed to our team of employment discrimination lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm.The answer is yes.
Take the case of Meadowbrook Meat Co., d/b/a MBM Corp., which was sued for failing to remove offensive graffiti, including the “N-word,” a swastika, and references to the Ku Klux Klan, from its Mason City, Iowa warehouse. The complaint specifically averred that an African American employee complained to his managers that he had seen the message “NIGGERS STINK” scrawled on the wall of the men’s restroom. Beyond the complaints, the employer knew of the racially offensive graffiti because the restroom was used by the employee’s supervisor. Nonetheless, the message remained on the wall for 30 days after the employee complained. Additionally, after Meadowbrook finally removed the graffiti, a new message appeared on the wall reading “KKK I hate Niggers.” This second message remained visible for over three months after the African American employee first complained.
The lawsuit asserted that this conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII, like its Ohio counterpart, R.C. § 4112.02, makes it an unlawful employment practice “for an employer … to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
Even though the African American employee was not demoted, fired, or suffer any adverse financial loss, Meadowbrook agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying $15,000.00 in compensatory damages to three African American employees who saw the racist graffiti. Additionally, Meadowbrook agreed to paint the men’s restrooms with graffiti-resistant paint, adopt a policy prohibiting racist imagery, create an incentive program to encourage compliance with that policy, and conduct surveys to determine whether employees are familiar with its anti-harassment policies.
The lesson, as always: employers may be held liable for unlawful discrimination or harassment if they know or reasonably should have known about the discrimination or harassment and fail to take steps to eradicate such conduct.
If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, then call the right attorney. Race discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with an attorney from The Spitz Law Firm who will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims.
The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to race discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm or any individual attorney.