Many strides have been made over the years to prevent discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, sometimes workplace discrimination still occurs, leading to a hostile work environment. For example, a black man in Tennessee is suing his employer, the Springfield Water and Wastewater Department, for $500,000 plus punitive damages, alleging that he was the victim of racial discrimination and that his employer permitted a hostile work environment to exist. In the lawsuit, the man alleges that his co-workers placed a rope around his neck and called him a monkey, among other incidents. For example, per court documents, one city worker referred to the man as a "black bastard" in a text message sent to other city workers.
City leaders contest that the incident involving the text message was the only incident that ever occurred. The city leaders stated that it was an isolated offense, and that an investigation took place after it was reported to supervisors, leading to disciplinary actions. The city also maintains that it reassigned other workers to stop any harassment from occurring. The city denies that the work environment was so hostile that the man was unable to continue working there.
However, the man alleges other actions took place leading to a hostile work environment. He claims fellow workers told him his uniform was only suitable for "white people," that his locker was broken into, that he was denied restroom breaks and that his co-workers would leave the room if he was there. The man states that such actions would not have taken place if he was not African-American. According to his lawsuit, the man was ostracized after he reported the incidents and he was denied a transfer to a position that would have taken him out of the hostile work environment.
The allegations this man is making are very concerning. While it remains to be seen how this lawsuit will unfold, it serves as an example of how certain acts of workplace discrimination can cause a person so much distress that they can no longer perform their job duties. Many people who suffer such discrimination feel forced to leave their jobs. Therefore, it is important that anyone who believes they have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace seeks the guidance they need to understand how the law applies to the facts of their situation, so they can determine what actions to take moving forward.