A Manhattan federal jury awarded a black employee $280,000 in a hostile workplace claim because her boss — who is also black — repeatedly used the N-word as a form of “tough love” during a tirade.
“My voice was heard today,” Brandi Johnson said after the jury announced the award against both STRIVE East Harlem and its founder, Rob Carmona, according to The New York Daily News.
The Daily News noted that Carmona’s voice was also heard by the court — in the form of a tape recording of his rant, which included:
“I’m not saying, using the term ‘n—–’ derogatory, ’cause sometimes it’s good to know when to act like a n—–. But y’all act like n—–s all the time,” Carmona said.
When Johnson told her boss she was offended by his language, he said, “You can be offended, but it’s true.”
“You and her act like n—–s. And n—–s let their feelings rule them,” he said.
Johnson testified that she cried for 45 minutes after the event.
“I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected,” she said. “I was embarrassed.”
Carmona, a black man of Puerto Rican descent, argued that the N-word has “multiple contexts” when used among members of the black community, and said, as am example, “This is my n—-” is often used to denote love.
“That means my boy, I love him, or whatever,” Carmona said, and claimed that’s what he’d meant to convey to Johnson — a form of love.
The jury didn’t buy it, though. The award represented $250,000 in compensatory damages and $30,000 in punitive damages.
STRIVE East Harlem is a nonprofit organization that finds work for people from troubled backgrounds, and claims to have helped nearly 50,000 people find work since its founding almost 30 years ago.
The following is a STRIVE promotional video.