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A federal jury in New York heard argument last week in a racial discrimination case that stated the n-word was an acceptable term of endearment among Blacks. The jury dismissed the argument, ruling in favor of a Black female employee who was the recipient of a epithet-laced barrage from her Latino boss.

The AP reported on the case between Rob Carmona, who created the STRIVE employment agency in East Harlem, and former employee, Brandi Johnson. Johnson, who tired of the verbal abuse from Carmona, taped some of the offensive comments in March 2012 before bringing forth the case.

Johnson, 38, says that Carmona ranted for four minutes and used the n-word in an insulting fashion. Carmona, 61, a black man of Puerto Rican descent, defended his use of the term to which Johnson’s attorney saw as an attack.

“When you use the word n-gger to an African-American, no matter how many alternative definitions that you may try to substitute with the word n-gger, that is no different than calling a Hispanic by the worst possible word you can call a Hispanic,” said Johnson’s attorney, Marjorie M. Sharpe.

Carmona claimed he used the word in a friendly context, saying that he was trying to convey a sense of connection with Johnson with use of the language.

STRIVE was once explained by CBS’ 60 Minutes as a tough environment that helped troubled people join the workforce. Although the agency has been celebrated for their work in the community since 1984, Sharpe told jurors that Carmona was still out of line.

“Well, if calling a person a n-gger and subjecting them to a hostile work environment is part of STRIVE’s tough love, then STRIVE needs to be reminded that this type of behavior is illegal and cannot be tolerated,” said Sharpe.

Johnson was awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages, and jurors will return to Manhattan federal court to decide on punitive damages.


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