NEW YORK (AP) — A federal jury has rejected the argument that use of the N-word among blacks can be a culturally acceptable term of love and endearment, deciding its use in the workplace is hostile and discriminatory no matter what.
Jurors last week awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to a black employment agency worker who was the target of an N-word-laced rant by her black boss, and they return to a Manhattan federal court Tuesday to decide on punitive damages.
The case against Rob Carmona and the employment agency he founded, STRIVE East Harlem, gave legal airing to what some see as a complex double standard surrounding the word: It’s a degrading slur when uttered by whites but can be used at times with impunity among blacks.
But 38-year-old Brandi Johnson told jurors that being black didn’t make it any less hurtful to be the target of what her attorney called Carmona’s “four-minute nigger tirade” about inappropriate workplace attire and unprofessional behavior.
Johnson, who taped the March 2012 remarks after her complaints about his verbal abuse were disregarded, said she fled to the restroom and cried for 45 minutes.
“I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed,” Johnson testified.