Can Racial Symbols Create A Racially Hostile Work Environment?
For more than twenty years, our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims. Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our employment discrimination attorneys in Inverness, Florida know that many employees are required to endure racial symbols in the workplace. In the most egregious cases, employees encounter racial symbols that manifest racist beliefs, such as Klu Klux Kan hats, swastikas, or nooses. In this article, our wrongful termination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida explain how the decision in Mingo v. City of Mooresville, 2023 WL 6120962 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 18, 2023) demonstrates that racial symbols can create a racially hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law.
Protection From Racial Harassment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. Under long standing 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 working environment. When an employer knows or should know of racial harassment in the workplace, the employer is required by Title VII to take prompt and effective remedial action. The employer’s remedial action must be reasonably calculated to stop the racial harassment and prevent the racial harassment from recurring. When an employer takes no remedial action, or the remedial action taken does not stop the harassment, the employer is liable under Title VII for creating and maintaining a racial hostile work environment.
Racial Harassment Lawsuit
In Mingo,a man named Mingo brought a racial harassment claim against his former employer, the City of Mooresville (“Mooresville”), pursuant to Title VII. Mingo, who is African-American, claims that he was required to work in a racial hostile environment in violation of Title VII.
In October 2015, Mingo was hired by the Mooresville Police Department (“MPD”) as a police officer. Mingo served as a patrol officer. In December 2017, Mingo was asked to be part of a MPD honor guard laying a wreath at a Confederate soldiers’ monument as part of a “Wreaths Across America” program. Mingo, the descendant of slaves, “expressed his reluctancy to participate,” but he was not excused from the event. Ultimately, Mingo participated, but his supervisors allegedly “resented” Mingo for “allowing personal opinion to interfere with his performance of departmental responsibilities.” In fact, Mooresville’s Mayor, who had attended the event, was purportedly concerned that Mingo’s reluctance to serve may have violated “white people rights,” asked the MPD to investigate Mingo. A Captain in the MPD quickly obliged, opening an “investigation” regarding Mingo’s behavior. This inquiry was later closed.
Mingo further claims that his fellow officers targeted him with racially disparaging comments about African-Americans, such as referring to them as “thugs and hoodlums.” Mingo contends that such comments were repeatedly made in front of supervisors, who failed to act. Mingo also testified that he was aware that other African-American officers were subjected to racial epithets and asked whether they or their friends were members of a gang.
Evidence Of Racial Hostile Environment
Mooresville filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Mingo’s racial hostile work environment claim. In moving for dismissal, Mooresville argued that alleged racial harassment Mingo experienced was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a racial hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. The trial court disagreed and ruled that Mingo had presented sufficient evidence to establish that he worked in a racial hostile environment in violation of Title VII to proceed to a jury trial.
In support of its conclusion, the trial court observed that Mingo was “directed to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony celebrating confederate soldiers.” When Mingo “expressed his reluctance to participate because of his family’s history with slavery,” the trial court noted, “he was formally investigated by one of his superior officers for potentially violating ‘white people rights.’ ” Although Mingo “was investigated for expressing his discomfort in participating in a ceremony concerning confederate soldiers,” the trial court explained, “twelve other white officers were not disciplined for speaking with members of the media and making racially derogatory statements about members of the MPD, including the Chief of Police.” The trial court also observed that other officers targeted him with racially discriminatory remarks about African-Americans, such as referring to them as “thugs and hoodlums.” The trial court further observed that Mingo testified that other African-American officers were repeatedly subjected to racial epithets and asked whether they or their friends were members of a gang. Based on this evidence, the trial court concluded, it was for a jury to decide whether Mingo was required to work in a racially hostile environment in violation of Title VII.
Citrus County Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination lawyers attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than two decades. If you have been required to work in a racially hostile environment or have questions about your protection from racial symbols in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination 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.