If there is one thing that is never appropriate in the workplace, it is racial and ethnic slurs. Make that crystal clear, especially when you are training managers and supervisors.
Tell them in no uncertain terms that any slur will result in immediate discipline—and possible termination. That’s because even an isolated racist outburst can prompt a costly lawsuit.
Recent case: Napoleon, who is black and speaks Spanish, was in charge of a crew of disabled workers who did landscaping work. Napoleon’s supervisor frequently wrote him up for seemingly minor work problems, but allegedly ignored serious rule violations by white supervisors.
Napoleon complained that he was told not to use Spanish in the workplace even though he explained to the supervisor that some of his subordinates only spoke Spanish.
Napoleon also claimed that his supervisor showed him pictures of other minority workers who were recently fired. She told Napoleon he might be next.
He claimed she called his Spanish-speaking subordinates the “Mexican Mafia.” In addition, she allegedly used the n-word around Napoleon.
Soon, Napoleon couldn’t take the stress and went out on leave for anxiety and related problems.
Then he sued, alleging that his supervisor had subjected him to a hostile work environment.
The court refused to dismiss his case, noting, “a reasonable juror could conclude the mere utterance of this particular word by a supervisor, instead of referring to the racial epithet as ‘the n-word,’ could be ‘highly offensive and demeaning’ to an African-American subordinate.” (Andrews v. Pride Industries, No. 2:14-CV-02154, ED CA, 2016)
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