Here’s a surefire way to spur a lawsuit and ensure it goes to trial: Just fire an employee who has been the target of her boss’s racial slurs.
Recent case: Hawa worked part time for an assisted living facility. Hawa is black and of Liberian descent. Hawa would later claim that her supervisor regularly told her, “Africans don’t know how to clean.” Plus, he required Hawa to lie on the ground underneath tables to clean. She also alleged the supervisor gave her much more work to do than could reasonably be expected during a two-hour shift. However, Hawa never complained to HR about these alleged incidents.
Things reached a crisis point shortly after Hawa asked for a reduced schedule to care for her disabled son. Her request was approved. Shortly after, the CEO allegedly called her a “black bitch” and “bad n****r” and stated that Africans can’t clean. Hawa complained this time.
She was terminated the next day because the employer allegedly couldn’t accommodate a reduced schedule.
Hawa sued, alleging both race and national-origin discrimination, and a racially hostile work environment. The employer argued that it had merely fired her because it needed employees to work more than a few hours per week.
The court said the CEO’s alleged slurs were direct evidence of discrimination and that the supervisor’s past slurs plus demeaning assignments could be sued to prove that a hostile work environment had existed. It ordered a trial. (Kennedy v. Heritage of Edina, No. 13-71, DC MN, 2014)
Final note: The employee in this case worked just a few hours per week in a part-time position. The number of hours an employee works has no effect on whether she can sue for discrimination.