Myself and other co-workers have repeatedly ask another employee that works in the same space to stop using the N-word. I am African American, the individual using the slur is an Asian woman. She explains that it is ok for her to use the slur because her wife is black.
It makes my blood boil and is difficult to focus at work when it occurs. Supervisors are present each time myself or others express our distaste and nothing has been done to stop it.
You need to talk to an employment attorney ASAP. Most of us will provide phone consultations for free.
Using the N-word in the workplace is not acceptable and this needs to be reported (in writing, such as in an email) to your Human Resources Department. If you have any questions, please call one of the attorneys on AVVO.
Your employer has an affirmative legal duty to take all reasonable measures to protect you against race harassment. Unlawful harassment in the workplace is defined as unwelcomed comments or conduct based on race that are so severe or pervasive that they fundamentally change the workplace rendering it hostile toward you as a person of color. Even if the word is not directed at you as a label, being around such offensive language can be harassment. The question will be whether this offender is doing this enough to constitute pervasive activity.
Even though you have made clear that supervisors are hearing this language, it would be appropriate for you to report this offensive behavior to the company HR department or the person at the company responsible for HR. If it does not stop, it would be prudent for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law work offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.
I'm sorry this is happening to you.
Racial harassment is illegal under California's Fair Employment & Housing Act ("FEHA"). Use of the n-word certainly falls under the definition of racial harassment. There is no excuse for it, regardless of the person to whom your co-worker is married.
The employer is only liable for such harassment if it is on notice of the harassment occurring or if the person committing the harassment is a supervisor. Here, supervisors were present, so the company was on notice of these occurrences.
The real question is: what do you want to do about it? It's illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting racial harassment, but employers do illegal things all the time. That's what keeps me in business. If they fired you, you may have a good lawsuit, but in todays economy you'd probably rather have a job than a lawsuit.
No attorney can tell you what you "should" or "shouldn't" do. That's a personal decision based on the wrong that you've experienced and the further wrongs you're likely to encounter before the legal system tries to make it right.
If you believe that your rights have been violated, and you decide that you want to take legal action, make sure to do so within your statute of limitations or your rights may be lost forever.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
Craig T. Byrnes
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not offering legal advice, nor forming an attorney-client relationship with you. I am not representing you, nor doing anything to protect your legal rights. If you believe that you have suffered a legal wrong, take action before any statute or limitations expires, or your right to do so may be lost forever. Good luck in your legal matter.
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline