Gallatin, TN asked in Employment Discrimination and Employment Law for Tennessee

Q: Is this racial harassment or just a dumb comment?

My wife is an accountant at a firm in Nashville. My wife is the only black person in her office. One day a coworker of hers made the comment "the KKK wasn't that bad." Completely out of the blue. It obviously upset her but she didn't make a scene. Later that night she texted one of her superiors to ask if any action will be taken for her comment/should she report it to HR. Her superior told her that the comment wasn't that bad and that my wife was overreacting. Is this just an instance of people being racially charged in the south or is this as over the line as we feel?

1 Lawyer Answer
Rhiannon Herbert
Rhiannon Herbert
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Columbus, OH

A: If you'd like to pursue something here, your best bet would be a hostile work environment claim based on race. However, establishing such a claim requires proof that the racially discriminatory comments your wife experienced were both severe (in terms of what was said), and pervasive (meaning the comments occurred frequently). One comment, even a severe one, will not be sufficient to establish this claim. Your wife should make and keep a list of any other race-based comments or interactions she has experienced at work in order to pursue such a claim in the future.

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