Can I sue company/supervisor for a racial comment that wasn’t expressed at me but was directed at someone else in the company?

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Can I sue company/supervisor for a racial comment that wasn’t expressed at me but was directed at someone else in the company?

My supervisor is Mexican and I am White (the minority in Houston is Caucasian, African, Indian.) My friend was hired on in this company and upon his hiring the supervisor said, “Your the 1st White boy I have hired in a long time”. I was made aware of this comment by my friend which resulted in a serious inferiority complex and felt discouraged when performing work when the supervisor showed to the job site. The supervisor also wrongfully terminated myself and my friend for tardiness and unsatisfactory performance. This was all false. Do I have the beginnings of a viable court case?

Asked on September 26, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

To sue for racial discrimination, you generally have to show that you are a member of a protected class.  A protected classed is usually considered someone who is a minority, females, or someone who is disabled.  Some other groups have been identified over the years, but these are the big three.  Caucasians are not considered minorities, even if you are the minority race in the company that you work for.  Your only other option would be to look at a potential “reverse discrimination” claim, which fits the facts a little better that you are talking about.  Under a regular discrimination case or a reverse discrimination case you have to show some type of hostile work environment.  A single comment is not usually going to qualify as a hostile work environment, especially if it was not aimed at you directly.  You mention that your supervisor showed up at your work site, but you don’t indicate that he specifically did anything else to discourage your performance.  If the company or your supervisor made more statements or did other things that created a hostile work environment, then you may have a claim.  You mention that your supervisor also terminated you wrongfully or tardiness and performance issues.  Even if you do not have a discrimination claim, you should be able to claim unemployment if the discharge reason was not valid.  It’s certainly not as much money as a discrimination claim can yield, but it is a source of funds to get you by until another opportunity opens up.


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