A federal judge has ruled that workplace use of the derogatory term 'nigger' is illegal, even if uttered by black people.
Brandi Johnson, 38, was awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages in a lawsuit brought against STRIVE agency founder Rob Carmona (pictured above) for calling her the N-word during a taped "four-minute nigger tirade". Johnson said Carmona was angered over her inappropriate workplace attire and unprofessional behavior.
STRIVE prepares young black people with the tools necessary to enter the workforce. STRIVE's website notes that the agency has helped nearly 50,000 people find jobs.
Johnson, who taped the March 2012 remarks after her complaints about his verbal abuse were disregarded, said she fled to the restroom and cried for 45 minutes.
"I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed," Johnson testified.
In closing arguments, Johnson's attorney Marjorie M. Sharpe said Carmona's use of the word was intended to offend "and any evidence that defendants put forth to the contrary is simply ridiculous."
"When you use the word nigger to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word nigger, that is no different than calling a Hispanic by the worst possible word you can call a Hispanic, calling a homosexual male the worst possible word that you can call a homosexual male," Sharpe told jurors.
Defense lawyer's for 61-year-old Carmona said the black man of Puerto Rican descent had a much different upbringing than Johnson. "And Mr. Carmona is himself black, as you yourselves can see," the defense attorney said.
During his testimony, Carmona said his use of the N-word was uttered out of love for another. He said he might put his arm around a friend and say: "This is my nigger for 30 years."
"That means my boy, I love him, or whatever," he said. When asked if he intended love when he called Johnson a nigga, Carmona replied, "Yes, I did."
"Well, if calling a person a nigger and subjecting them to a hostile work environment is part of STRIVE's tough love, then STRIVE needs to be reminded that this type of behavior is illegal and cannot be tolerated," Sharpe said.