Today I am going to discuss two racial harassment cases decided by the same court, on the same day, but with different results.
- In Paasewe v. Action Group, Inc. (6th Cir. 7/17/13), the plaintiff alleged that he was called “boy,” threatened because he wore a Barack Obama t-shirt, and was demeaned because he was a black man driving a nice car. The court concluded that a jury question existed on whether Paasewe’s allegations gave rise to a racially hostile work environment.
- In Nicholson v. City of Clarksville (6th Cir. 7/17/13), the plaintiff alleged that co-workers repeated used the n-word and other offensive phrases to describe African-Americans, in addition to incidents of profanity directed at African-American employees. The court concluded that no jury could reasonably concluded that Nicholson had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment, and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of his harassment claim.
An employer’s primary goal should not be to win these cases on their merits when filed, but to prevent them from being filed in the first place. How does a business accomplish this goal?
- Have a written anti-harassment policy.
- Provide periodic anti-harassment training.
- Foster open channels of communication between employees and management.
- Take all workplace complaints seriously by investigating each (no matter how trivial it may seem), and by imposing effective remedial action if necessary.
- Maintain a diverse workforce.