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Mass. federal court rules against YMCA in racial harassment case

This week a federal court in Massachusetts held that a reasonable jury could determine that the Old Colony YMCA subjected an African American employee to racial harassment that created a hostile work environment. The African American employee, Jessika Boone, worked for the YMCA as a caseworker in the YouthBuild program. The YouthBuild program is a community-based educational and vocational training program that serves disadvantaged young people from the Brockton area, over half of whom are African American.

According to Boone, during her time working in the YouthBuild program, a co-worker and a supervisor made racially charged comments about African American people. For example, one employee said that he did “not know why people get so mad about slavery.” Another employee allegedly referred to an African American employee of Egyptian descent as a “dune coon.” A supervisor asked an employee during a meeting if he had seen a pornographic movie called “Big Black Cocks.” Boone’s supervisor also allegedly acted hostilely toward her in ways—such as calling her a “bitch” and “fucking idiot” and giving her the middle finger—that he did not do to white employees. Based on the evidence that Boone presented, the court held that “a reasonable jury could find that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her race.”

Many people assume that this type of overt racism does not occur in the workplace any more but that is a flawed assumption. People still utter racial epithets and racially insensitive language in the workplace. The Maine Employee Rights Group has experience with these types of cases representing workers with stories similar to Ms. Boone’s.  If you work in Maine and have experienced this type of racial harassment, call us to learn more about your rights.

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