The judges did not provide an explanation as to why they did not take up the case.
The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Texas surgeon Robert Collier who said his exposure to racial discrimination and “N-word” graffiti created a hostile work environment.
According to NBC News, Collier’s allegations shared “the nation’s federal courts.” While some judges found that the use of the N-word was so serious that a single use could constitute grounds for a claim to discrimination, others said that it may only be construed as “a mere utterance”.
According to NBC, the lawsuit was filed by Collier after he was released from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Collier claims that he and other black employees were ill-treated while working for Parkland.
In one incident, Collier said he found the N word on the wall of an elevator that he and other staff members use to reach the hospital cafeteria.
In his complaint, Collier alleges that he reported the incident to hospital management, which did not take immediate action. Eventually, the suit says, the word “was roughly scraped out”.
However, a federal judge eventually scrapped Collier’s case, saying that no sane jury would believe that a single instance of graffiti constituted racial discrimination – especially because the message was not addressed to Collier individually. The 5th Court of Appeal later upheld the same verdict.
US Supreme Court building; Image by Mark Thomas via Pixabay.com.
When Collier’s lawsuit reached the Supreme Court, Parkland Memorial’s attorneys argued that if a workplace is so pervaded by racial discrimination that it violates federal civil rights law, then the only way to violate federal civil rights law is to break normal conditions of employment to change.
Parkland went on to claim that Collier could not substantiate his claim that the graffiti either interfered with his work or created a hostile work environment.
Interestingly, despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Collier’s case, two seated judges have made very different decisions on related cases.
For example, Judge Amy Coney Barrett was on a panel of the 7th Court of Appeals that unanimously ruled against a black man who had alleged discrimination. In her opinion, Barrett said that the “n-word is a egregious racist epithet” but that an employee cannot prove discrimination by “simply proving that the word was spoken”.
In contrast, Judge Brett Kavanaugh – who, like Barrett, is a Trump appointee – found that another black’s case had been dismissed prematurely. In that lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that he was referred to as an N-word by a manager.
In his opinion, Kavanaugh concluded that the N word was “probably the most offensive word in English” and that its use in the workplace “alone is enough to create a racially hostile workplace”.
Despite the conflicting views at the bank, the Supreme Court did not explain why it refused to hear Collier’s appeal – most likely because Collier was exposed to the bow in writing and, as Parkland’s lawyers alleged, was not specifically directed against him.
For his part, Collier said during a tipping in 2018 that it was emotionally affecting him just to see the arch stay in place for so long.
“I would say it was something I noticed and complained about,” said Collier. “And every time I had to take that elevator because I hadn’t seen it against it […] it was annoying […] Because I would have liked it to go away pretty quickly. “
While SCOTUS denies the racist libel case, civil rights lawyers say they will continue to pressure
The judges are considering hearing a case about the “most offensive word”.
The Supreme Court is not going to decide whether the use of the N word constitutes illegal discrimination