Jury awards US$280,000 in racial abuse case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 9:01pm


The lawyer for a black US woman whose claim against a black boss’s N-word rant brought a US$280,000 jury award says she hopes the case teaches society something.

“It’s the most offensive word in the English language,” attorney Marjorie M Sharpe said on Tuesday.

A jury sided with 38-year-old Brandi Johnson against the boss, Rob Carmona, in a case that explored a word that is a degrading slur when spoken by whites but at times is used affectionately among blacks, even in the workplace.

Johnson said she hopes the word now “won’t be tolerated no matter what your race is.”

Carmona, a 61-year-old black man of Puerto Rican descent, had testified that he was dispensing tough love. “I come from a different time,” he said in court on Tuesday.

He had tried to defend his use of the word, saying it had “multiple contexts” in the black and Latino communities, sometimes indicating anger, sometimes love.

Johnson had recorded his March last year tirade about inappropriate workplace attire and unprofessional behaviour, and it was played for the jury.

She said she cried for 45 minutes in the restroom afterward.

“I was offended. I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected. I was embarrassed,” Johnson testified.

In a statement, the organisation Carmona founded, Strive East Harlem, said it was disappointed but was exploring options, including an appeal.