Labor & Employment Law

African-American boss's N-word rant leads to $250K compensatory award in bias case


Updated: A federal jury in Manhattan has awarded $280,000 to an African-American worker who claims her boss used the N-word in a four-minute rant about her professional behavior and work attire.

The worker, Brandi Johnson, worked at an employment agency called STRIVE that helps people from troubled backgrounds find work. Her boss, Rob Carmona, is also African-American, the Associated Press reports. STRIVE’s model, according to a 60 Minutes story, is “part boot camp, part group therapy.”

Jurors awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages last week and $30,000 in punitive damages on Tuesday, according to AP’s updated story and CNN. Johnson had taped the four-minute rant and said it illustrated the hostile environment where she worked.

Carmona had testified the N-word has “multiple contexts” in the black and Latino communities, sometimes conveying anger and sometimes love. In Johnson’s case, he said, the word was intended to convey love. Carmona said he was trying to tell Johnson she was “too emotional, wrapped up in her, at least the negative aspects of human nature.”

Johnson’s lawyer, Marjorie Sharpe, told AP she hoped the case sends a message to those “have tried to take the sting out of the N-word. … It’s the most offensive word in the English language.”

Updated on Sept. 4 to include punitive award, CNN coverage and comment by Sharpe.

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