Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race. Ethnic slurs, racist words or epithets, racial jokes, offensive or derogatory language, or other verbal and physical conduct based on a person’s race constitute unlawful workplace harassment where, for example, the conduct subjects employees to an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment, or interferes with an employee’s work performance.
Workplace racial harassment can occur at any place of employment in any area of the employer’s place of business. That is the occurrence of racial harassment is not limited to the warehouse, the oilfield, the construction site, the assembly line, the factory floor, the manufacturing plant, the refinery facility, the restaurant kitchen or housekeeping but also can occur in management offices, the boardroom, and elsewhere.
Racial harassment creates a hostile work environment and there are many different types of conduct, communication and words that are offensive. Ethnic slurs can include such words as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, nigger, mayate, beaner, spic, wetback, dirty Jew, kike, camel jockey, haji, sand nigger, gringo, limey, chink, slant eye, gook and, among others, zipperhead.
Indeed, racial slurs can quickly transform employment conditions into an abusive work environment that can be made worse when the circumstances also include symbols of hate such as a hangman’s noose. See, Rodgers v. Western-Southern Life Ins. Co., 12 F.3d 668, 675 (7th Cir. 1993) (use of the N-word alters work conditions and creates an abusive environment); Williams v. New York City Housing Auth., 154 F. Supp. 2d 820,824 (S.D. N.Y. 2001) (the noose is among most repugnant racist symbols).
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