A federal jury in New York awarded a plaintiff $30,000 in punitive damages and $250,000 in compensatory damages after the woman brought claims against her former manager who went on a four-minute tirade laced with use of the N-word. The unusual part of this decision: the plaintiff is black and so is her former boss.
In Johnson v. STRIVE East Harlem Employment Group, the plaintiff, Brandi Johnson, brought claims against her employer pursuant to 42 USC § 1981 and several New York City administrative code provisions as a result of being berated and called the N-word by her boss, Rob Carmona. She alleged that Mr. Carmona’s behavior– and more specifically his language– was discriminatory and created a hostile work environment. Some of the language used is reproduced in the 124-paragraph complaint, which identifies Mr. Carmona as an “Hispanic-American.” However, Mr. Carmona’s attorneys described him as a black man of Puerto Rican descent.
The defense argued that the N-word is a term of “love and endearment” when used by African Americans toward other African Americans. Mr. Carmona, who has a master’s degree from Columbia University, explained that the word has “multiple contexts” in the black and Latino communities, sometimes indicating anger, sometimes love. Mr. Carmona said he might put his arm around a longtime friend in the company of another and say: “This is my n—– for 30 years.”