The scenario: A Black woman thought that some of her white bosses were biased against African Americans. For instance, one manager said that every statement made by a Black customer was “a goddamn lie.”
The same supervisor told her that she was a “n-gg-r like all the rest.” Another manager stated that she’d taken her daughter out of a class at school because there were too many Black students.
And a white male supervisor told the woman that several of her colleagues were angry Black women who always seemed to be mad about something. He asked her to explain what was making the women angry.
The same white male boss told another Black woman that she shouldn’t work with two African American employees because “we don’t need any of that Black woman attitude. They’re too angry and aggressive.”
The African American staffer complained multiple times about the offensive comments, but she was ignored.
A short time later, the woman was demoted as part of an organizational restructuring.
Legal challenge: The Black woman sued for a hostile work environment based on race, claiming that she was demoted because of her race. She pointed to the disturbing comments as proof of discrimination.
The ruling: The company lost. The court refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge cited the repugnant statements directed at the woman as proof that she endured a racially hostile work environment. Combined with the employer’s failure to investigate her complaints, there was enough evidence that she might have been demoted because of her race.
The skinny: You have to take action against individuals making abhorrent comments that reinforce racial stereotypes.
Cite: Guster-Hines v. McDonald’s USA, U.S. District Court, N.D. Illinois, No. 20-cv-00117, 6/25/21.
(From the July 30, 2021, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription right now, please click here.)