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Racist talk toward others can add up to hostile environment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Don’t allow racist talk. Even if not di­rected at an employee, it can have a profound effect on her.

Recent case: Latrice, who is black, worked for a security company that provides security for the Chicago Housing Authority. She sued, alleging a racially hostile work environment.  

She said her supervisor called black residents “porch monkeys” and made comments like “Sit your black ass down.” She said her boss once sent a text message depicting a hanging black stick figure. Latrice testified she feared that the supervisor’s racist expressions would cause violence.

The company said even if the conduct was unacceptable, none of it was directed at Latrice.

The court ordered a trial anyway. It noted that hanging has special significance to black people whose ancestors may have lived through the Jim Crow era. (Golden, et al., v. World Security, No. 10-C-7673, ND IL, 2012)

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