Sacramento, CA asked in Employment Law and Employment Discrimination for California

Q: Racist memes sent in mass group text directed against employee and seen by the district manager of employee and ignored

All my co workers got together at a party and created racist memes about me and sent these through a mass group text to almost all the other employees in the district. This is a party that predominately had supervisors and a district manager attending. Nothing was done to stop messages being sent and when shown said memes to district manager he laughed and basically ignored the fact that he is supposed to adress these kinds of things right away. I havent been able to perform at my normal capacity as this has caused me alot of emotional distress and anguish to come to work. I am very fearful of retaliation as i am currently on a 90 day probation period for having been accused of violating a company policy. I know if i bring this subject up the nepotism and relationships alot of these employees have that are complete conflicts of intrest would aide in having me terminated. I need to know if i am able to sue them for monetary damages due to the emotional distress ive experienced this mont

2 Lawyer Answers

Neil Pedersen

Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Irvine, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It is hard to say without far more information.

Racist memes sent about you are clearly inappropriate. Whether they rise to the level of unlawful racial harassment depends on the severity and volume of the inappropriate conduct. Harassment, to be unlawful, has to be severe or pervasive, such that it fundamentally alters the workplace rendering it hostile toward you as a member of your race. The concepts of severity and pervasiveness mean that one or two bad acts or comments will likely not be enough to be unlawful unless they are extremely severe. Thus, the specific details of the memes, what they said, what they depicted, now many were made and how many were sent, would all need to be assessed.

As to reporting this conduct, even the reporting of a non-severe or non-pervasive act of racism in the workplace can clothe you in legal protection, meaning that if you faced retaliation for reporting this, you would likely have a legal claim for that retaliation.

Before you do anything it would be wise for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.

Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law work offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.

Good luck to you.

Louis George Fazzi

Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Jess Ranch, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I agree with most of what Mr. Pedersen has stated. However, in addition to what he has advised, I suggest you log on to the website of the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [https://www.eeoc.gov/] and browse the remedies offered to workers in your situation. For example, you can immediately file a claim of discrimination, even though you haven't yet suffered any adverse job consequences (such as firing, demotion etc.), and ask the Agency to investigate your charge of discrimination and harassment. However, since you appear to be experiencing mental and emotional upset over what has happened, you have the absolute right to immediately file your charge of harassment based on race, i.e. racial harassment. You can also go to the website for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) (https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/) and file your complaint with that agency, and request they investigate your harassment claim. Go to the EEOC first, file your claim (which immediately gives you protections against retaliation, which is also triggered when you file a claim with the DFEH), and let them work for you. The EEOC has options for you which are broader and can offer better help without the need to retain the services of an attorney. However, I do recommend you contact a lawyer capable of handling racial discrimination cases to assist you during the investigative process. If you do contact the California Employment Lawyer's Association, you have the best chance to find really capable lawyers willing to assist you.

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