Friday, September 6, 2013

Nonprofit, Founder Ordered To Pay Employee After Racist Rant

A federal jury in New York ruled that a nonprofit and its founder must pay a former employee $280,000 after she was subjected to a rant using racial slurs.

According to a report on, the ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Brandi Johnson against STRIVE, an employment center in East Harlem section of Manhattan. Johnson claimed in her suit that STRIVE’s founder, Rob Carmona, repeatedly harassed her, culminating in a rant that used slurs against African-Americans. Johnson, who is black, said in court that the incident was the last straw for her. She sent a formal complaint to the organization’s CEO, Phil Weinberg on April 11, 2012 but was allegedly told that she was being "out of line" and "emotional."

Johnson was fired two months later, which she alleges was done as retaliation for her complaints.

The jury ruled Tuesday that Carmona, who founded STRIVE in 1984, must pay Johnson $25,000 and the organization must contribute $5,000 in punitive damages. This comes a week after jurors awarded Johnson $250,000 in compensatory damages.

"We are disappointed by the verdict, as we do not believe that it comports with the full facts applicable to the case," said Carmona's lawyer, Diane Krebs, via a statement. "Nevertheless, we respect the jury's decision and the judicial process. We are exploring all our options moving forward, including appeal, and look forward to the judicial process taking its entire course."

While testifying last Friday Carmona, who identifies as black and Hispanic, tearfully tried to explain his actions. He explained, "I come from a different time." According to STRIVE, Carmona spent his early teenage years in Harlem addicted to drugs and in and out of prison. He found solace in an alternative incarceration program where he cleaned up and eventually attended college. The center's website says that it has helped nearly 50,000 individuals across America enter the workforce.

For her part, Marjorie Sharpe, Johnson's attorney, called the decision "important" because it is the first case where "we essentially have the n-word on trial."

"There are a number of cases where the n-word has been used in a workplace, but usually it's been done between people of different races, and when we're having that discussion, it seems that it's clear that if you're not African-American and you use the n-word, absolutely it's insulting," continued Sharpe.

You can read the full story on CNN's website.

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