A federal jury in New York has found that use of the N-word is never appropriate at work, even if it is used between co-workers that are both African-American.
Jurors awarded Brandi Johnson $250,000 in compensatory damages in a case gaining national attention at a time when n-word use is often debated.
The jury determined the employment agency worker, who is black, was the subject of harassment after her boss, Rob Carmona, subjected her to a racial slur-filled tirade.
Carmona is also African-American. The court convenes again today to determine whether Johnson should be awarded additional punitive damages.
The case hinged on use of a slur with a lengthy history.
In modern times, it is widely considered degrading when used by white people, but is often used in broad contexts and without consequence by African-Americans.
“I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed,” Johnson said, adding that she cried for 45 minutes after the incident.
Carmona is the founder of STRIVE, an employment agency.
The company's goal is to help black people with troubled pasts. He said the n-word has “multiple contexts” and can even denote a meaning of love.
Carmona said he used the words to indicate a close relationship with a friend, putting his arm around a friend and saying: “This is my n***er for 30 years.”
“That means my boy, I love him, or whatever,” he said.
The racial makeup of the eight-member jury was diverse and difficult to determine, reports say, but the panel was comprised of six men and two women.
N-word use: Is it ever okay?