Jerk employees are responsible for creating most of the hostile work environment claims I get hired to defend.
But companies must act quickly to prevent workplace discrimination, regardless of the source. A new lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just filed serves as a good reminder for employers.
Earlier this week, the EEOC announced that it had sued a long-term care facility for allowing white patients/residents to subject black nurses and nurse assistants to ongoing and egregious racial harassment.
According to the EEOC, the white patients and residents referred to the black staff as “n—-r,” “coon”, “monkey,” and “Black b—–s.” One patient allegedly told Black employees repeatedly to “go back to Africa,” followed Black employees throughout the facility to racially berate them, and physically assaulted Black employees because of their race.
Apparently, this despicable behavior was so open and notorious that supervisors and managers witnessed how some white patients mistreated black staff. Plus, black nurses and nurse assistants allegedly complained often about racial harassment.
However, the EEOC alleges that the company told the Black employees that its residents could say what they wanted at the facility. One manager in particular supposedly told a complainant that she should be used to being the target of racial slurs because she “is from the South.”
Does this violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? If true, it sure does. Other federal anti-discrimination laws also prohibit third-party harassment.
Therefore, employers should ensure that their anti-harassment policies prohibit discriminatory behavior by anyone who may enter the workplace, encourage employees to report it, and demand that managers and supervisors take complaints of third-party harassment as seriously as they would a complaint of co-worker harassment.
The EEOC notes in its press release that “federal law requires that an employer take prompt and effective remedial action to prevent race harassment of its employees in the workplace, including where the harassers are patients or customers.”