Plaintiff’s Firm Wins Punitive Damages on Behalf of Client Subjected to the N-Word at Work

Alex Umamsky and Marjorie Sharpe, attorneys at Phillips & Associates, recently won a $30,000 punitive damages award, on top of a $250,000 compensatory damages award for the firm’s client, Brandi Johnson. Ms. Johnson is a 38-year-old black woman who sued her boss Rob Carmon, after he targeted her with slurs. Mr. Carmon is the founder of STRIVE, an employment agency in East Harlem that employed Ms. Johnson for two years.

Ms. Johnson was trying to defend a person graduating from the STRIVE program who claimed to have been sexually harassed by a STRIVE employee when her boss went on a tirade against her. She recorded the rant on her iPhone. Mr. Carmon, a 61-year-old black man of Puerto Rican descent, used the n-word eight times towards Ms. Johnson, saying sometimes it’s good know when to “act like a n—. But y’all act like n—s all the time.”

Ms. Johnson told him he was offended by the language, and he said, “You can be offended, but it’s true.” He testified at trial he was trying to tell Ms. Johnson she was too emotional and that the n-word as he used it was a term of love in the context in which he used it.

Ms. Johnson cried in the bathroom for 45 minutes after the tirade, feeling embarrassed. Mr. Carmon told other employees not to socialize with her and when she complained about his discriminatory and harassing conduct to STRIVE’s CEO, she was terminated from a management position. The jury awarded the plaintiff punitive damages in the amount of $30,000–$25,000 of which Mr. Carmon will have to pay from his own personal funds.

To prove harassment, a plaintiff must show he or she is a member of a statutorily protected class; he or she was subject to unwelcome words or actions related to her status in the protected class; and the unwelcome words or actions were based on her membership in that class. Those who can show harassment may be entitled to compensatory damages including back pay, front pay, lost benefits and pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

Unlike compensatory damages, which are designed to place a plaintiff back into the position he or she would have been in if not subject to the harassment, punitive damages are designed to punish the harasser.

If you are subject to harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation, our experienced hostile work environment attorneys can help you protect your rights. As you can see from the case described above, the law against workplace harassment applies equally to all members of society.

Our lawyers are passionate advocates for employees, helping them fight illegal workplace conduct. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a tenacious and tireless advocate, please call the lawyers of Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or contact us via our website.

More Blog Posts:

Manhattan Hotel Kitchen Worker Sues Employer Over Alleged Co-Worker Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 16, 2013
Federal Law Prohibits Employers in New York and Elsewhere from Terminating a Worker Over Medical Leave Related to a Miscarriage, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 9, 2013

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