A federal jury recently ruled that an owner and his company must pay compensatory and punitive damages to an African-American employee after determining that the use of the “n-word” is inappropriate among minorities in a workplace. In a lawsuit filed by Brandi Johnson, who is African-American, against STRIVE, an employment center, she asserted a claim of a hostile work environment after being the target of racial slurs from her supervisor.
The most significant holding in the Court’s decision was rejecting owner Rob Carmona’s defense that his use of the n-word was “okay” or did not have the same effect against Johnson because he himself was a “black” individual (In reality, he is an Hispanic-American man). In effect, the Court determined that the use of the n-word against an employee is unacceptable under the law regardless of whether the two individuals are of the same or different race.
As evidence supporting her case, Johnson recorded Carmona during an “n-word” filled rant on her iPhone. A snippet of the rant includes the following:
“You and (a previous employee) are just alike. Both of you are smart as shit, but dumb as shit. You know what it is … both of you are niggers, y’all act like niggers all the time. …And I’m not saying the term niggers as derogatory; sometimes it’s good to know when to act like a niggers, but y’all act like niggers all the time … both of you very bright, but both y’all act like niggers at inappropriate times.”
In total, Carmona called Johnson the n-word eight times during the four-minute rant. My favorite part is that Carmona actually thought by saying “I’m not saying the term niggers as derogatory,” it somehow negated any race discrimination or hostile work environment claims. Could you image if the Court allowed such a defense? Next would be: “Not to be sexist, but women should not work outside the kitchen,” or “Not in a bigoted way, but Jews ask for too much money.”
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.99, race discrimination is unlawful. Any good employment discrimination lawyer knows that the discrimination is still discrimination now matter who it comes from if it directed at African-Americans, Arabs, Native Americans, Whites, Latinos, Asians, multi-racial individuals, or persons of any other race, ethnicity or color.
Jurors last week awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to Johnson, 38, who sued the center founder, Carmona, personally and STRIVE, his company. In the punitive damages phase, the jury ruled that Carmona must pay an additional $25,000 and his organization must pay $5,000, totaling $280,000 to be paid to Johnson.
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 (216) 291-4744, 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.