A retired Cocoa water worker, who lost a federal discrimination suit against the city nine months ago, filed again—this time in Brevard County’s 18th Judicial Circuit Court. The lawsuits center on three incidents in which the worker, who is black, says he was subjected to racist comments and taunted by a hangman’s noose.
A white employee admitted putting the noose on the lunchroom table in 2003 with a note referencing union negotiations. The note reportedly stated the noose symbolized all employees being “hung out to dry” with no pay raises that year. When the plaintiff asked that the employee be reprimanded, the plaintiff alleged that he was threatened with termination. The city defended the employee who made the noose, saying it wasn’t meant as a racist symbol.
Final note: This case is a good reminder that harassment is in the eye of the beholder. If an employee is offended enough by a co-worker’s actions to complain, you need to take that complaint seriously. A company often will win in court on a discrimination claim only to lose on a retaliation charge because it handled the complaint poorly.