Racial Harassment

In a racial harassment scenario, the victim is targeted because of his race. Many racial harassment cases involve harassment by coworkers. A diligent employer needs to be aware of the potential for racial harassment and make sure that its policies are designed to prevent and correct any harassment.

Harassment can take the form of a hostile work environment, in which a reasonable person would find the work environment hostile or abusive and that the person subjected to the harassment finds hostile or abusive. It happens when one or more individuals create an offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere in which an individual experiences workplace harassment and/or fear.

The following conduct could be harassment if it's based on the victim's protected class:

  • Persistent offensive comments;
  • Threats or intimidation;
  • Physical assault;
  • Sabotaging the victim's work; or
  • Making false accusations against the victim.

An employer's liability for harassment depends on whether the harasser was someone with authority over the employee or was a coworker and what the employer knew and did in response to the harassment. An employer also can be liable if a customer, vendor, or other nonemployee harasses an employee and the employer doesn't take reasonable steps to prevent or correct it.

Employees also can allege same-race harassment. A black male can cause his company to be liable for harassing another black male on the basis of race. The bottom line is that you have a duty to prevent all kinds of harassment.