Ban all racial comments—discrimination is discrimination, regardless of particular race — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Ban all racial comments—discrimination is discrimination, regardless of particular race

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You need a zero-tolerance policy banning all comments about race or ethnicity. It doesn’t matter whether the race being singled out is a majority or a minority race. The act of harassing someone because of his race is illegal either way. It also doesn’t add one bit to workplace harmony or the bottom line.

As the following case shows, racial comments by a member of one race against another are wrong, no matter what race the employees belong to.

Recent case: Thomas Aulicino, who is white, worked for the New York City Department of Homeless Services. His supervisors are black.

Aulicino claimed his black supervisors frequently commented on his white race, saying things like it was all right for a client to call Aulicino a “white mother f*****.” The supervisors also expressed the opinion that “white people are lazy,” and that black people had to stick together because white people had engaged in lynchings.

Another time, when several white subordinates took off at the same time, one of the black supervisors wondered aloud if the employees were taking part in “some sort of white conspiracy.”

Aulicino applied for promotions but never got one. He then sued, alleging that his black supervisors had passed him over because he was white. He pointed to the racial comments as direct evidence of discrimination, and also claimed he had been forced to work in a racially hostile work environment.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the court for a jury trial.

It reasoned that racial comments by supervisors are direct evidence of bias and that racial comments made over a long period of time can constitute a racially hostile environment. The court said the incidents must be considered together, taking into account the severity and frequency of the comments and who made them. The race of the employee is irrelevant. (Aulicino v. New York City Department of Homeless Services, No. 06-5605, 2nd Cir., 2009) 

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