do I have to deal with racial jokes at work?

UPDATED: May 26, 2009

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do I have to deal with racial jokes at work?

an employee said a racial joke and the manager said that I will just haveto deal with the racial jokes.

Asked on May 26, 2009 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

Not necessarily.  Racial jokes can create what is called a "hostile work environment" that is grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit.  Courts look at how severe and how pervasive the offensive remarks are;  in some cases, a single remark is severe enough to make the case, as in one New Jersey instance where the boss used the phrase, "jungle bunny" when speaking to an African-American employee.  The more offensive the remarks, the less pervasive (frequent) they need to be, for a court to act.

It is also unlawful discrimination to retaliate against you for complaining about these "jokes."  This is one of the few exceptions to the rule that an employer doesn't need a reason at all to fire you.

You should talk to an attorney in your area who handles employment discrimination cases.  They tend to be difficult and drawn-out, but they can be won, if the unique facts of your case are enough.  One place to look for qualifed lawyers is our website,

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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