Legally, racial and ethnic harassment are reviewed under the same standard as those based on sexual harassment – hostile work environment. Courts recognize that certain phrases, words, or conduct that appear innocent to most people may be intolerably abusive to members of the harassed group. Thus, allegations of a racially or ethnically hostile workplace must be assessed from the perspective of a person belonging to the same racial or ethnic group as the harassed employee. Whether workplace harassment is sufficiently “severe” or “pervasive” assessed from the perspective of a reasonable person belonging to the racial or ethnic group of the plaintiff.
To establish a case of a racially hostile work environment, the employee must show that he is a member of a protected class, he was subjected to unwelcome racial or ethnic harassment, and the harassment unreasonably interfered with his work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
As with sexual harassment claims, an employer has a duty to prevent and remedy instances of racial and national origin harassment. An employer who fails to remedy problems of which it has actual or constructive knowledge may be held liable for harassment despite the existence of a formal policy against harassment.
The victim of racial or ethnic harassment must show a “concerted pattern of harassment of a repeated, routine or a generalized nature” and that the alleged conduct constituted an “unreasonably abusive or offensive work-related environment or adversely affected the reasonable employee’s ability to do his or her job.”
A wide range of bad acts may give rise to racial or national origin harassment. The use of racial or ethnic slurs, distributing racially offensive brochures, or singling someone out for poor treatment because of their race or ethnicity, are some examples. A case may also involve claims that customers were treated poorly or segregated because of race or ethnicity, and that this behavior affected the upset employee’s work environment.
If you have been a victim of racial or ethnic harassment in the workplace contact us to find out what your legal options are..