Jobs don't have to be sacrificed to avoid racial harassment in the workplace.

by on January 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Racial discrimination lawsuit sheds light on hostile work environment

Worker was harassed but didn’t quit due to workplace racial discrimination

Some managers think there’s no hostile environment until the victim quits. They’re wrong, as this racial discrimination lawsuit illustrates.

Delbert Gaskins drove a truck for a waste management firm. Gaskins, who is African-American, got fed up by his bosses’ and co-workers’ racial taunts. He filed a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination in the workplace fostering a hostile environment.

In court the employer presented a seemingly logical argument: Since Gaskins still worked at the firm, his hostile environment claim was groundless. After all, if things were really that bad Gaskins would have quit, right? According to the employer, the bosses and co-workers hadn’t harassed anyone. They were just horsing around.

But the court sided with Gaskins. In reaching its decision the judge said, “One need not sacrifice one’s job in order to prove that racial harassment in the workplace rose to a level of an actionable hostile work environment.”

The judge noted frequent use of the “n” word and other racially derogatory talk by supervisors. This case is a reminder for HR to monitor the culture, management style and what passes as “horsing around” at off-site locations.

Cite: Gaskins v. BFI Waste Services, LLC, U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, No. 03-2020, 7/14/04.

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