A B&B client who was subject to racial slurs in the workplace will have his day in court, after this firm defeated the former employer’s attempt to dismiss the case at summary judgment. In a decision dated May 1, 2023, a judge of the Barnstable Superior Court, Hon. Justice Buckley, denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on claims of race discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, and failure to investigate, pursuant to G.L. c. 151B. The plaintiff is represented by Attorneys David E. Belfort, Michael L. Mason, and Nafisa Bohra.
B&B’s client, the plaintiff, is an African American man who was employed as a delivery driver and warehouse worker for a wholesale fish delivery business on the Cape. He endured pervasive race-based harassment and was fired after he complained to the company. Among other things, the plaintiff was subjected to comments by his direct supervisor about lynching and burning crosses. In another instance, a co-worker made a meme about the plaintiff, referring to him by a racist epithet. A co-worker repeatedly threw trash in his truck. Although aware of this misconduct, including the use of racially offensive language, the company failed to take immediate or appropriate action.
This harassment culminated in a verbal altercation in which the plaintiff was called a racist epithet in the presence of his immediate supervisor. The employer then fired B&B’s client and his harasser, who is white. While the employer argued that it was entitled to fire both employees, the Court recognized a critical distinction. “Although the white employee was also fired as a result of the argument, Rose was fired after being the victim of alleged racist conduct,” the Court stated. Thus, an employer cannot meet its obligations under G.L. c. 151B by dismissing the harasser and the victim. Moreover, as Judge Buckley noted, “simply denying the conduct occurred is not sufficient to warrant summary judgment.”
This case highlights the need for employers to respond quickly and effectively to allegations of workplace discrimination. All too often, employers fail to act or – as happened here – take action against the victim. B&B looks forward to providing updates as this case proceeds to a jury trial.