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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
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Employee Claims Retaliation After Refusing To Work With Co-Worker Who Used Racial Slur

Three signs that read stop all harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about racial discrimination or harassment in the workplace.  Having represented victims of retaliation for almost twenty years, our Central Florida employment retaliation attorneys have learned that instead of addressing, let alone resolving, employee complaints of racial discrimination or harassment, employers often target complaining employees for adverse employment actions.  The decision by the United States District Court for New Jersey in Nuness v. Simon and Shuster, Inc., No. 16-2377 (D. N.J. Nov. 17, 2016) is instructive in showing that employees are not required to tolerate an employer’s refusal to address complaints of racial discrimination or harassment.

Employer Fires Employee Rather Than Address Her Complaint

In that case, Tyshanna Nuness (Nuness), who is African-American, brought a retaliatory discharge claim against her former employer, Simon & Schuster, Inc. (Simon & Schuster).  Nuness was employed by Simon & Schuster as a line picker.  In this position, Nuness was required to work in “close proximity” and “alongside” a white employee named Hankins.  Nuness claimed that Hankins used a racial slur in reference to her while they were working together.  Nuness complained to her supervisor about the racial slur.  Nuness’ supervisor referred her race discrimination complaint to the Director of Human Resources.  Hankins was suspended for one week because of the racial slur.  After the suspension, Simon and Schuster placed Hankins back on the same shift as Nuness, forcing her to work in “close proximity” to the same person who used the racial epithet. 

Because she “felt uncomfortable and unsafe” working near Hankins, Nuness asked her supervisor to either transfer her or Hankins to another shift.  Although there were available shifts to which Hankins or Nuness could have been transferred, Nuness’ request was denied.  After her request was denied, Nuness notified the Director of Human Resources that she was still uncomfortable working with Hankins because of his prior racist comment and told the Director of Human Resources that she would be contacting an attorney.  The Director of Human Resources replied that if Nuness “did not come to work she would be resigning.”  Because she “could no longer tolerate the racially charged environment,” Nuness was absent from work for about one week.  The Director of Human Resources then informed Nuness that her employment was terminated. 

Employer Fires Employee Rather Than Address Her Complaint

  Simon & Schuster filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Nuness’ retaliation claim.  In doing so, Simon & Schuster asked the trial court to rule that Nuness’ retaliation claim was meritless and should not be allowed to move forward in litigation.  The trial court denied Simon & Schuster’s motion for dismissal.

In denying Simon & Schuster’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found that Nuness had alleged facts sufficient to establish a causal connection between her race discrimination complaint and her termination.  As evidence of causation, the trial court pointed to Nuness’ allegations that she was fired about two weeks after making her race discrimination complaint.  This short passage of time was sufficient to establish that Nuness’ termination was causally related to her race discrimination complaint.  The trial court also found that Nuness’ allegations that Simon & Schuster “did nothing to remediate [her] complaints,” and upon learning that she would “not continue to endure the intolerable working environment,” terminated Nuness’ employment “rather than address her complaints,” were sufficient to establish that Simon & Schuster had a “retaliatory animus” against her for making a race discrimination complaint.  Thus, the trial court concluded, Nuness had alleged sufficient facts to state a meritorious claim for retaliatory discharge.    

Free Consultation With Central Florida Retaliation Attorneys   

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have extensive experience representing employees who have been retaliated against for complaining about racial discrimination or harassment in the workplace.  If you have been retaliated against, or have questions about having to work with an employee who has engaged in racial discrimination or harassment, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Central Florida retaliation lawyers.  Our employee rights law firm takes employment retaliation 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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