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High court declines to toughen rules on race slurs in workplace

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused yesterday to put stricter limits on racial slurs in the workplace, turning away an appeal from a black computer technician who was fired shortly after complaining that a white co-worker loudly described a pair of crime suspects as "two black monkeys in a cage."

Robert Jordan was dismissed from his contract job for IBM in suburban Maryland a month after his complaint and was told that he was "being disruptive." Jordan said he found the comment shocking and disgusting and believed his supervisors should reprimand the employee who said it.

Even if Jordan was fired simply for complaining about the racist comment, his employer did not violate civil rights law, a federal judge and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said in dismissing his lawsuit.

That's because "an isolated racial slur" does not constitute a "hostile work environment," the lower court said.

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