Is it harassment when owner makes slurs about other groups?

The owner of my company constantly talks poorly and discriminatorily about Muslims and Arabs. While I am not one of those, I do find it extremely offensive. Can he openly discriminate since we don’t employ anyone of that race or religion?

Rita Risser replies:

Of course your company doesn’t employ anyone of that race or religion! That’s discrimination in action. So any qualified applicants who were to learn of his discriminatory statements could sue. As to whether you can complain of a harassing environment, according to the EEOC, the conduct must be so objectively offensive as to alter the conditions of your employment. The conditions of employment are altered only if the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. In other words, if you find it very difficult to work in this situation, you might have a claim for a harassment. You could contact the local office of the EEOC, or your state fair employment or human rights departments, to get more information. Good luck.

Posted 04-13-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.