You are asking whether you have a case for slander, which is oral defamation. Slander is the oral communication of false statements which are harmful to someone’s reputation. Spoken opinions which don't contain statements of fact don't constitute slander. The basic elements of a claim of slander include; 1.defamatory statement 2. published to third parties 3.which the speaker/publisher knew or should have known was false.
Illinois does have an anti-hate crime statute:
Your statement indicates circumstances where it might be a matter of some contention and controversy whether the facts constituted a violation of the law.
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The language used was reprehensible and the associate should be disciplined or fired. When you are asking if you have a case, I'd imagine that the associate selling sneakers is relatively insolvent, which means even if you sue him it will be difficult to collect. If you sue Foot Locker you will need to prove that it had knowledge or notice that the employee was inclined to speak like that to the customers or that somehow it endorsed his actions. I wish you the best in getting justice here!
Please note by answering this question there is no attorney-client relationship formed. I am not your attorney. Nothing I said in this reply can or should be relied on. In order to rely on counsel's advise you must retain that attorney and receive representation or an official opinion letter. This is neither and meant to be for general informational purposes. Your case has specific nuances that goes beyond what you wrote and what I answered and you must speak directly with counsel to advise you of your rights.
Potentially, this could be defamation.
However, much of how this is perceived would depend upon who was judging it. This issue has been much-discussed for years both in the African-American community and the population in general.
While your son may have been "hurt" by the incident, it probably does not rise to the level of something that is actionable, at least not in any realistic sense.
I would suggest you consult with a lawyer who handles defamation matters.
In any event, there is no doubt that you should contact the store manager and make him or her aware of this obviously improper and unprofessional conduct of the employee. Whatever the thoughts on the use of the "n" word, this is clearly not something anyone would consider appropriate.
Stephen L. Hoffman
Law Office of Stephen L. Hoffman LLC
This answer is provided for informational and advertising purpose and is intended not to be construed as legal advice. Further, please note that this practitioner is licensed in the State of Illinois and only answers questions involving incidents and the law of that jurisdiction.
Your son may have a defamation case or other possible claims, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is not possible, however, to give you a definitive opinion without a full discussion of the facts. You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible as there may be a very short deadline for filing a case. Good luck!
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