Racial Slurs and Hostile Work Environment

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Are Racial Slurs an Intolerable Part of Your Job?

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, and sex. This law has since been interpreted to mean that racial, religious, or sexual harassment in the workplace constitutes unlawful discrimination if it creates a “hostile work environment,” altering an employee’s working conditions, or making it difficult or impossible for the employee to do his or her job.

The harassment must be both “severe” and “pervasive” in order to create a hostile work environment. These 2 factors operate on a sliding scale: the more severe the harassment, the less pervasive it has to be, and the less severe, the more pervasive it must be.

In most cases, one racial slur would not be enough to create a hostile work environment. Since one off-color remark is not a very severe form of harassment, racial slurs, without more, would have to be a common and accepted occurrence in order to create a hostile work environment.

In order to create a hostile work environment, racial slurs must be so common, derogatory, and overt that they actually change the atmosphere of the workplace to one charged with racial hostility.

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Last Modified: 08-19-2013 03:45 PM PDT

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