Can I sue my employer for what an employee said?

I was at work finishing up when a fellow
employee started talking to me. At one point
she asked me how old I was and when I said
I’m 30, she said ‘I wouldn’t have thought you
were that old. Black don’t crack.’ I started to
walk away and she said ‘You know it’s true,

Asked on October 26, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

IF you tell your employer about the remark, they fail to take action, and discriminatory remarks or other harassment continue, then you may have a discrimination claim and be able to sue. But your employer's legal responsibility is not to prevent a racial discriminatory remark or act in the first place, because clearly, they can't do that, and no one can: they don't "mind control" their employees, for example, or have the ability to stop them from making inappropriate or illegal comments. What they can and must do is take reasonable and appropriate action to prevent recurrence after they have been notified of what happened. So you cannot sue them for a discriminatory remark by a co-worker unless you report it, given them a chance to take action in regards to it, but they fail to do so and the discrimination continues.

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