Here’s an incentive to keep racially hostile symbols out of the workplace: In a case that resulted in no other damages, five black employees received $50,000 each for spotting a noose at work.
Recent case: The EEOC sued L.A. Pipeline Construction after several black employees claimed they had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment. They saiddid nothing to prevent co-workers from hanging nooses in the workplace. A noose is a long-standing symbol of lynching and oppression that evokes anxiety in many black employees whose ancestors may have been hanged.
The company never hired an attorney, apparently thinking the problem would go away. It didn’t, of course, and the court entered judgment for the employees without a trial.
Then the judge calculated how much the harassment was worth and came up with $50,000 per employee for mental pain and suffering. (EEOC v. L.A. Pipeline Construction Company, No. 2:08-CV-840, SD OH, 2011)
Advice: Prevention is better than a cure. Employers must be proactive about preventing a racially hostile work environment. If something like a noose shows up at work, remove it immediately.
If the culprit who brought and displayed the noose is caught, discipline him or her. Then follow up with harassment training so other employees understand you take this kind of harassment seriously. Finally, conduct surprise spot checks and follow up with affected employees to see if they are satisfied with the outcome.