Legal Blog

Legal Q&A: October 24, 2013

 

QUESTION

Is it true that the use of one racist, sexist or anti-religious statement in the workplace can constitute a hostile work environment?

ANSWER

Probably so. In April 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that a supervisor’s use of the “N word” when yelling at an employee was probably enough to establish a hostile work environment. This decision followed a 7th Circuit decision where the judge opined that no act could more quickly alter the conditions of the workplace than a supervisor’s use of the “N word.” The same could likely be said for other extremely derogatory terms when referring to an employee’s sex, religion, or national origin. It is important for supervisors to be aware of how they are communicating to subordinates and for the Company to ensure that this type of demeaning and hurtful language is not being used.

 

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