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Court rules for employee in slur case

California employers should be aware that even a single slur could constitute a hostile work environment. This was the conclusion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit after hearing a case involving a supervisor who allegedly used a slur toward an employee. The plaintiff in the case represented himself and was assisted by an amicus curiae brief by the EEOC.

In his lawsuit, he claimed that he was discriminated against based on race and sex when the manager used the slur. The EEOC in its brief claimed that the employer could have violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because of the strength of the language used. A lower court ruled that a single slur on its own was not enough to constitute a hostile working environment. The ruling was based on a previous case that found that whether or not slurs create a hostile working environment depends on the frequency and severity of the language.

However, the appellate court said that the lower court misinterpreted the ruling to mean that one use of a slur was not sufficient to create hostile working conditions. Furthermore, it held that the use of a slur by a manager toward an employee or another subordinate could be one of the fastest ways to abuse an employee.

Those who wish to file a claim of illegal workplace discrimination may wish to consult with an attorney. While individuals may represent themselves, attorneys may be able to provide resources that may help to obtain a positive outcome in a case. If successful, employees may be entitled to compensation for back pay, the value of benefits or punitive damages as determined by a jury. Reinstatement is often available to those who are terminated in an unlawful act of retaliation by an employer.

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