Rest easy: As long as you take appropriate action to stop racially charged comments, the first one won’t land you in court. The key is to take every complaint seriously and immediately investigate any complaints. Then discipline the person who made the comments and warn against further comments.
Recent case: Stephon, who is black, worked for a state tax agency. He filed a suit over several issues without a lot of detail, adding an incident in which a co-worker created a hostile environment.
He made the claim based on the co-worker advising him not to let “anyone at the agency call him a mulignan”—an Italian slur against blacks.
The court tossed out the case. The single comment wasn’t enough to create a racially hostile environment. (Harris v. New York State Department of Taxation, No. 1:13-CV- 893, ND NY, 2015)