Courts have determined that one or two uses of a racial slur are enough to create a hostile work environment. But what if the slur is said in a foreign language?
In a recent lawsuit, the 5th Circuit decided the language the slur is spoken in is irrelevant.
Michael Johnson, an African American man, worked as a maintenance worker for PRIDE Industries in Texas.
His Hispanic supervisor began calling him the Spanish equivalent of the N-word. The supervisor also referred to Johnson as “mijo” (son) and “manos” (hands) instead of calling him by his name.
Furthermore, the supervisor began giving Johnson less favorable assignments, and removed his application for a promotion.
Johnson later sued for a hostile work environment based on racial discrimination. The 5th Circuit ruled in his favor.
The court stated the N-word is the “most noxious racial epithet.” The fact it was spoken in a language Johnson didn’t speak was irrelevant. The continued use of that word, as well as the other terms the supervisor used with Johnson, were enough to establish a hostile work environment.
Johnson’s case only got stronger when he proved the supervisor treated him more poorly than the other non-African American employees.
Cite: Johnson v. PRIDE Industries, 8/6/21.