Racially Hostile Work Environment Plausibly Alleged; Allegations Included the Use of the “N-Word”

In Love v. Premier Util. Servs., LLC, No. 15-CV-5698(ADS)(ARL), 2017 WL 2418268 (E.D.N.Y. June 3, 2017), the court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint to add a claim of a racially hostile work environment.

Judge Spatt wrote:

Accepting the allegations in the [proposed amended complaint] as true, Dunham is alleged to have witnessed one discriminatory remark in which he and his co-Plaintiffs were described by a supervisor as “stupid niggers” whom the company did not want as its representatives on Long Island; learned that this same supervisor left a fake parking ticket on Love’s vehicle and later witnessed him laughing with a colleague about it; learned of “racial jokes” by a self-proclaimed white supremacist within the company’s ranks, who is also alleged to have informed Love that his role as a supervisor was to force Love to quit; and learned of at least one occasion on which this same individual used the word “nigger” to refer to African-Americans. In the Court’s view, these alleged facts, if proven, support a reasonable inference that Dunham’s workplace was so permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that it altered the conditions of his employment for the worse.

In reaching this conclusion, the court cited the principle that “no single act can more quickly alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment’ than the use of an unambiguously racial epithet such as ‘nigger’ by a supervisor in the presence of his subordinates.”

This rule applied “despite the fact that Dunham learned secondhand of many of the comments that he claims contributed to his hostile work environment” since “[i]t is well-settled that, in evaluating whether alleged discriminatory remarks rise to an actionable level, courts are directed to evaluate the totality of the circumstances, including comments made outside a plaintiff’s presence.”

The court concluded that “[i]f true, the alleged regularity and flagrance with which the Plaintiffs’ supervisors not only used the word ‘nigger,’ but openly disparaged African-Americans and acknowledged not wanting black employees working in the company’s mostly-white Hauppauge location is sufficient to support a reasonable inference of a racially-hostile work environment.”

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