Friday, May 19, 2006

First amendment alert

A white woman working as a medical assistant at a hospital in New Jersey sues her employer, complained of a racially hostile environment. While some of the comments by her African-American supervisor were racially derogatory, much of what the plaintiff complained of consisted of the supervisior complaining of racial discrimination and profiling directed against blacks. An apellate court ruled that this type of speech in the workplace could create an unlawful racially hostile environment:

We are satisfied that when the race-based comments and conduct directed at plaintiff, and the racially insensitive remarks about white people plaintiff was forced to overhear, are considered along with the facially neutral comments and conduct Johnson directed towards plaintiff, a jury could reasonably find that Johnson's conduct and racially charged comments were directed towards plaintiff because she was white, were sufficiently severe or pervasive to make a reasonable person believe that the conditions of the workplace had been altered, and that the working environment had become hostile or abusive.

Bredt v. Johnson, 2006 WL 941754 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Apr. 13).

I agree with Eugene Volokh that this ruling is in irreconcileable conflict with the first amendment.

What's also interesting is the embedded assumption that blacks and whites should not tell each other things they don't want hear about race.

1 comment:

John McAdams said...

OK, I agree with your First Amendment angle, but I can't help thinking "what about a white supervisor who said negative things about blacks?"