A federal jury in New York awarded $280,000 to Brandi Johnson, a plaintiff represented by Phillips & Associates, for her former employer’s use of the “n-word” in the workplace.
New York, NY (Law Firm Newswire) September 6, 2013 — The case was brought against Rob Carmona and his employment agency, STRIVE East Harlem, by then-employee Brandi Johnson. Ms. Johnston had alleged that Mr. Carmona called her “the n-word” on more than one occasion. She recorded one four-minute slur-laden tirade after her complaints of a hostile work environment were not addressed by executive management.
Lawyers for Mr. Carmona argued that, as a self-identified black Puerto Rican man employing many other people of color, he used the term under the assumption that it could have a number of interpretations. In the case of Ms. Johnson, Mr. Carmona testified, he used the word to emphasize “the negative aspects of human nature,” but he also used it, at times, he said, as a term of affection.
The eight jurors who heard the matter were not persuaded by this argument. They found the use of the n-word unacceptable in workplace, regardless of the speaker’s race. The jury rejected the defense’s argument that their client’s use of the “n-word” in the workplace was used as part of STRIVE’s tough love methods, without negative connotations. Alex Umansky who cross examined Mr. Carmona noted, that “he was unrepentant and defiant” during cross, refusing to apologize to the very end. Daphney Guillaume, co-counsel on the trial team added, “Whether or not the defendant used some terms or language in his personal life does not allow him, or anyone, to bring those terms into the workplace.”
In reaction to the verdict, Lead Counsel on the trial team, Marjorie M. Sharpe responded, “We at Phillips & Associates have dedicated our entire practice to defending employees in the workplace. It is our chosen area of practice because verdicts like this one have the ability to influence work culture for the better and render real discussion and change. To see the adjudicative process line up so perfectly with moral conscience is rare gift. It is our honor to represent Brandi Johnson and to achieve such a result for a woman so undeservingly mistreated. It allows us, as advocates, to set things right.”
The jury awarded $250,000 compensatory damages and punitive damages of $30,000; of which $25,000 must be paid personally by Robert Carmona.
Bill Phillips, the managing partner at Phillips & Associates, stated, “I am very proud of our litigation team. This is a landmark victory which serves as warning to employers who still feel this degrading slur is acceptable in the workplace. ”
Phillips & Associates is a workplace discrimination law firm serving the New York area. The firm represents clients who have been sexually harassed or discriminated against because of their race, national origin, gender, religion, disability and other protected traits.
Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, PLLC
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