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Non-employee’s racial bias may lead to liability for employer.

Most – if not all – employers are aware that both federal and state laws preclude employment discrimination based upon the race or national origin of an employee, and know that illegal activity can include both discriminatory actions and biased statements. Most employers, however, are unaware that certain of those laws also preclude discrimination by a customer, client, or patient of an employer against an employee.

"If They Hate You, They Must Hate Me Too"

On February 9, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit addressed the issue of whether alleged harassment toward African-American employees could support the claim that there was a hostile work environment for two Hispanic employees. The court concluded it could not in the particular case before it, stating that "if the evidence of the workplace environment for the employees of plaintiff's race does not show frequent, severe and pervasive hostility, then evidence of hostility towards a different racial group is not much support for the plaintiff's claim."

Company’s Prompt Reaction to Noose Precludes Liability for Racial Discrimination.

When an individual claims to have been racially harassed by co-workers, he or she must show that the employer was negligent either in discovering or remedying the harassment. An employer can avoid liability for co-worker harassment if it takes prompt and appropriate remedial action that is likely to prevent the harassment from recurring. Recently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals analyzed specific actions taken by a company after a noose was found hanging in a workplace, and found those actions to have been sufficient to uphold summary judgment in the company’s favor.
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