Sunday, March 27, 2022

5th Circuit: One N-word is enough to create a hostile work environment

Under Title VII, a hostile work environment claim requires harassment that is "severe or pervasive." A single incident can be severe enough to meet this standard. Ordinarily though, a single incident of verbal (as opposed to physical) harassment will not meet this standard. 

Not official use. 
Last week, in Woods v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit held that a supervisor calling his subordinate a "Lazy Monkey A__ N_____" in front of his co-workers was severe enough to state claim. I've published the racial epithet as it appears in the (very short) opinion, which includes a footnote, "The racial epithet is not further spelled out anywhere in the record." 

The Court relied in part on a case I wrote about when then-Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to SCOTUS in which he noted "No other word in the English language so powerfully or instantly calls to mind our country's long and brutal struggle to overcome racism and discrimination against African–Americans" (similarly concluding that a single use of the N-word by a subordinate would create a hostile work environment). 

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