Three Gross Racial Epithets Are Not “Hostile.”

Hampton v. J.W. Squire Company, Inc.– A supervisor called a subordinate a “house nigger” three times and the subordinate complained.  The Court held that these statements were not enough to create a “hostile work environment” and dismissed his claim for employment discrimination at the summary judgment stage.

To win a a hostile work environment case, an employee must show that “the evidence—viewed in [his] favor—would allow a reasonable [finder of fact] to conclude that the harassment was (1) unwelcome, (2) based on [his]…race, (3) sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of [his] employment and create an abusive atmosphere, and (4) imputable to [the employer].” E.E.O.C. v. Central Wholesalers, Inc., 573 F.3d 167, 174-75 (4th Cir. 2009).

There is no bright line rule of how many racial epithets an employer can hurl at an employee before he creates a “hostile work environment.”  However, three is not enough according to this Court.

There are four types of employment discrimination under federal law:  disparate treatment, disparate impact, hostile work environment, and unlawful retaliation.  In this case, the employee filed under the “hostile work environment” theory.  Had he filed under the “retaliation” theory, after he was fired, he might have fared better.  However, he didn’t raise this claim in his mandatory complaint to the EEOC.  He raised it, for the first time, in the federal court.  It was too late for consideration.

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