In allowing the employee's hostile work environment claim to move forward on his incessantly being called a "monkey" in the workplace, the Court reasoned that:
[T]he fact that plaintiff is not specifically of African heritage would not prevent a jury from concluding “monkey” was a derogatory reference to his race. Plaintiff self-identifies as a dark-skinned, dark-haired Hispanic man. He testified he understood “monkey” to be a reference to his physical appearance. Plaintiff also submitted an affidavit from a Hispanic co-worker, Joseph Amadiz, who witnessed plaintiff being called “monkey” and interpreted “monkey” to be a derogatory reference to plaintiff’s race. As plaintiff rightly notes, although nicknames were common between employees at R-Way, none of the nicknames given to other employees had any racial connotation.The Court also noted that the employee was called a "monkey" by another Latino employee but the plaintiff told the other Latino not to be an "Uncle Tom" and engage in the harassment and also noted that Latino is a term that encompasses a variety of Latino countries with people of differing physical features as plaintiff was in fact darker than his other Latino coworkers.
This is a very thoughtful opinion from the Court that acknowledges differences in ethnicities and does not allow the employer to attempt to make a silly, clever argument that "monkey" can only be a racial slur against African-Americans or other African decent employees. Clearly this plaintiff was being taunted for his physical characteristics stemming from his ethnicity and race and the Court was wise to see that.
[Plaintiff's retaliation claims were dismissed for failure to show a causal connection between his protected activity of complaining about the harassment and his reduction in hours and constructive discharge.]
The case is Marrero vs. R-Way Moving & Storage, Ltd., , Case No. 10 Civ. 5838 (US Dist. EDNY)