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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Can A Single Incident Of Racial Harassment Create A Racial Hostile Work Environment?

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For more than twenty years, our Citrus County hostile work environment lawyers have represented employees who have been required to work in a racial hostile work environment. Through their decades of experience representing racial harassment victims, our Inverness, Florida hostile work environment attorneys know that a common employment law myth is that racial harassment must be continuous in order to create a racial hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law. Because of this employment law myth, many racial harassment victims are unaware that they have been required to work in a racial hostile work environment in violation of federal law. In this article, our Citrus County hostile work environment lawyers explain how the decision in Prude v. Logistics One Transport, Inc.,Case No. 1:20-cv-00674 demonstrates that a single incident of racial harassment can create a racial hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law.

Protection From Racial Harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of race. Under well-established law, racial harassment is a form of race discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII, racial harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment. To be considered pervasive, racial harassment must be continuous. To be considered severe, racial harassment must generally involve racial epithets or racial slurs. In some circumstances, a single episode of racial harassment can be severe enough to establish a racial hostile work environment. To be severe enough to create a racial hostile work environment, a single incident of racial harassment must be extraordinarily severe.

Racial Harassment Lawsuit

In Prude, a man named Prude brought a racial discrimination claim against his former employer, Logistics One Transport, Inc. (Logistics One), pursuant to Title VII. Prude maintains that Logistics One violated Title VII by creating and maintain a racial hostile work environment.

Logistics One is a trucking transportation services company. Prude was employed by Logistics One from December 2015 until September 2018. Prude worked as a night shift dispatcher. Prude maintains that he was subjected to racially offensive incidents while employed by Logistics One. In May 2017, an employee, LeBarge, allegedly called Prude a “jigaboo.” In May 2017, Prude learned from co-workers that a supervisor had used racially offensive language towards Prude, including remaking that Prude would “go back to selling drugs” if he could not work out his issues with the company. In September 2017, according to Prude, a co-worker subjected him to racially offensive language, including calling him an “Uncle Tom.”

In the fall of 2017, Prude alleges that he was subjected to highly offensive racial remarks and gestures by LeBarge. While in the company break room, LeBarge allegedly walked over to Prude, held a banana over his head, and in the process, called Prude a “jigaboo” and my “little money” while making “monkey sounds.” Prude maintains that several of his co-workers witnessed the incident. Upon learning of the banana incident, Logistics One claims that managers investigated it and took disciplinary action against LeBarge. Prude disputes this characterization because the company did not fire LeBarge.

Single Incident Can Create Hostile Environment

Logistics One filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Prude’s racial hostile work environment claim. In moving for dismissal, Logistics One argued that the alleged racial offensive incidents that Prude experienced while employed by the company were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. The trial court denied Logistic One’s motion for dismissal and ruled Prude was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on his racial hostile work environment claim.

In denying Logistic One’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found that the isolated comments made by several co-workers over Prude’s three-year employment period were not sufficiently pervasive to alter Prude’s working conditions and create an abusive working environment. However, the trial court rejected Logistic One’s argument that the banana incident—when LaBarge allegedly held a banana over his head in front of a room full of co-workers and called Prude a “jigaboo” and “my little monkey” while making money sounds—was not sufficiently severe on its own to create a racially hostile work environment. Instead, the trial court determined that “whether the banana incident was sufficiently severe” to create a racial hostile work environment was a question for the jury to decide. In other words, the trial court found that a reasonable jury could conclude that the banana incident was severe enough to alter the conditions of Prude’s employment and create a racial hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

Citrus County Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our hostile work environment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have been subjected to racial harassment in the workplace or have questions about your protection from hostile work environment harassment under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our hostile work environment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes hostile work environment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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