Accused of Racial Slur

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about racial slur:

I am being accused by a fellow employee of referring to a fellow employee as “mo’ black”. It was witnessed by only one other person who is attesting that I did not say “mo black” but simply black while I was describing her.The situation was between myself and one other person and a person of black color. She went to the person I was speaking of and told her I referred to her as “mo’ black.” That person is threatening to sue the company if I am not fired based off of hear-say/he said she said.

Now it is a matter of whether or not to fire me, when I stand firm on not having said anything inappropriate. I didn’t even know “mo’ black” was seriously derogatory until yesterday. Apparently it is. The person involved in the conversation is “offended.” The person I was speaking to is “offended” even though she didn’t actually hear anything that was said.

The second person that was actually in the room said I did not. I am now scared I am going to lose my job off hear-say and no proof. I am not sure what to do. The girl that was in the room who claims she hear me say the derogatory term told this other person who is hot tempered has now created a hostile work environment for me and now possible termination.

What do you think about this? Another fact is, the girl who was in the room with me when I allegedly said this, has made fun of me being white, makes fun of my weight, makes fun of my clothes, told me one time when I had lost weight that I look like a meth addict. I find it very interesting that it is ok for her to chose to say bad things and then get offended and start throwing claims on me. I have never complained about her conduct with me, but I definitely will now.

Signed, Fearing For My Job

Dear Fearing For My Job:

Probably all you can do at this point is to present your case and hope for the best decision. I’m hoping only an official warning will be given, since apparently this is the first time something like this has happened and you only said the one thing.It sounds to me as though there was already a conflict going on and your comment added to it. I’m sorry it’s working out this way, but I think you realize that using an ethnic description in any way that seems derogatory is bound to create problems.

Had you not said, “black”, the other word probably wouldn’t have been attributed to you. You can’t prove you didn’t say “mo”, and she can’t prove you did say “mo”, but everyone agrees you said “black”. Since your remarks were apparently negative, it makes it sound as though you not only dislike the other employee, you have made her race part of your reasons for dislike. That sounds racially biased, which is considered problematic in most organizations.

You mention that the other coworker has made fun of your race and other attributes in the past and you feel that, as a result, she has no room to complain about you now.  I can understand how you feel, but the fact is, you have never complained and no one has been given the chance to intervene about her poor behavior. In this case, she DID complain and someone is intervening about the racial comment.

The truth is someone MUST take action about it. No company could afford to ignore such a complaint. They might not fire you but they must administer some form of discipline, so I think you should be prepared for that. Here is something that might help: Consider writing a letter to your supervisor and ask that it be passed up the chain to those who are considering the situation. In it mention your performance evaluations in the past, especially if they refer to teamwork or communications. Use that to show that you have always not only performed well but have behaved well toward others. You could say that you’re sorry you let your frustrations about work make you angry and that you anger let you to say something you never would usually have said. Then, you could clarify again that you said the one word and now regret it.

The important thing is not to make the biggest issue whether or not you said “mo” in connection with “black”. That is not a well known expression and doesn’t make the accusation much, much worse. The fact is, you were angry and you referred to her race to emphasize something negative about her. If you write a letter to point out what you have contributed to the organization and how you will continue to do so, it may at least give them a justification for why your discipline is less severe.

Employers don’t fire people because an employee demands it, they fire people because their policies and procedures require it or it seems the only solution to a problem. I hope your reputation and character will help them see that this situation doesn’t reflect the person you are.Best wishes to you. I would be very interested in knowing what happened. If you have the time and wish to do so let us know the results.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.