Back in September, 2013, I blogged here about a NY jury finding that a black plaintiff called the n-word — by her black boss — had been subjected to race discrimination.
Actually, her boss called her the n-word eight times!
“Well, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that’s 103 fewer times than the ‘N’-word was used in Django Unchained,” is what the defense’s closing argument sounded like, I imagine.
Certainly, the jury was not too keen on that opprobrious slur being thrown around the workplace, no matter who the speaker. So, it responded with a $280K verdict.
Last week, however, the judge cut the jury award in half.
That’s not to say the judge condoned the employer’s behavior.
In this opinion, Judge Harold Baer, Jr. underscored that “under no circumstances that I can conceive of would calling a subordinate [the n-word] be acceptable conduct.”
Judge Baer further found that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the defendant’s “plethora of discriminatory comments supports the jury’s finding of malice or reckless indifference to Plaintiff’s right to work free from race and gender discrimination.”
Was the plaintiff asking for trouble?
But, when it came to awarding compensatory damages for pain and suffering, Judge Baer concluded that the jury was too generous, especially when taking into account that the “Plaintiff’s efforts to invite a confrontation.”
(Yep, you read that right).
Additionally, Plaintiff’s decision to record her interactions with Carmona also supports a reduced emotional distress award. Thus, Plaintiff’s recordings, while surely helpful in proving her case, also demonstrate a willingness to engage Carmona to document his animus. And while not detracting from the fact that these comments were made, they pretty clearly reveal Plaintiff’s efforts to invite a confrontation with Carmona and fail to bolster support for an award that is founded on extreme emotional distress
So, instead of getting $250K, the plaintiff can now choose a new trial on damages or a reduced compensatory award of $128,109.59.
Don’t be like this employer.
Even at the reduced price of $15,000 per “N”-word, that’s enough incentive for employers everywhere to eradicate that hateful word from the workplace.