The Supreme Court's most recent ruling pertains to a case involving a man named Robert Collier in Dallas, Texas. After seven years of working at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Collier was fired and he decided to file a discrimination lawsuit against his former employer. In his lawsuit, Collier accuses the hospital of treating Black employees worse than others. He also identifies a specific incident in which the word "n-----" was scratched into the wall of an elevator that he and other employees used. After Collier reported the issue, he claims that the hospital did nothing to remedy the matter.
Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, Collier had received similar rulings from federal district judges as well. The Supreme Court has argued that "mere utterance" of the word does not equate to illegal discrimination by law. The court also stated that the discriminatory incidents outlined in the lawsuit did not create an abusive work environment or prevent him from doing his job.
"Oral utterance of the N-word and other racially derogatory terms, even in the presence of the plaintiff, may be insufficient to establish a hostile work environment," a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reads.
"The conduct that Collier complains of was not physically threatening, was not directed at him (except for the nurse's comment), and did not unreasonably interfere with his work performance."
Collier and his attorney, Brian Wolfman, disagree with the court's ruling. Wolfman also noted that rulings such as these leave the door open for the word to be used in workplace environments without being checked by the courts.
"Black employees in a significant swath of the country will, at a minimum, be forced to endure its prolonged and repeated use," Wolfman explained.
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