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Texts And Racial Discrimination: A Lesson For Family Employers

An African-American nanny is suing a Manhattan couple for discrimination after the wife accidentally sent her a racist text and then terminated her.

The wife of a successful financier hired the nanny but, after realizing she was African-American, sent a text to her husband that read, "NOOOOOOOOOOO ANOTHER BLACK PERSON." However, she accidentally sent the text, twice, to the newly-hired nanny, instead of to her husband.

When the woman realized her mistake, she immediately terminated the experienced nanny because she felt "uncomfortable." According to the allegations in the race discrimination lawsuit, the mother-of-two told the nanny that their previous nanny had been African-American and had done a bad job, so they wanted a Filipino.

The nanny is suing the couple for the $350 per day in wages that they allegedly promised her to work as a live-in nanny for six months. They paid her for one day of work when the wife terminated her on her first day. The couple allege that they do not owe her any more money because they did not have a contract with her.

The couple further alleges that their actions were reasonable because they could not trust her with their baby after they offended her. The nanny said that she was willing to work with the woman and would have never done anything to hurt her baby. The nanny sued after first trying to settle the dispute in mediation. Kaja Whitehouse, Reuven Fenton, and Ruth Brown "Mother accidentally sent nanny 'racist' text, fired her: suit" (Sep. 28, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Assumptions or stereotypes about members of a certain race or ethnic group can lead to employment discrimination litigation, as the above situation illustrates.

Eliminating every person from consideration for a job because they share the same skin color with a past poor performer is race discrimination and violates the law.

Family employers should make hiring decisions based on skills, experience, references, availability, and background checks. Never make employment decisions based on assumptions, fears, or stereotypes.

Here are some suggestions for establishing a family office free from stereotypes and discrimination:

   •     Create and enforce a well-written policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race or color, including racist statements, remarks, jokes, symbols, gestures, and threats. Make it clear that you support the policy 100 percent.

   •     Train staff on your anti-discrimination policy, and encourage them to report wrongdoing, including all forms of racial harassment and discrimination.

   •      Make sure staff understands that engaging in racial discrimination or harassment of any kind can lead to termination.

   •     Create a method of open reporting whereby staff can report directly to you if reporting to a manager or supervisor presents difficulties. If possible, provide a toll-free number for staff to anonymously report wrongdoing to a third party.

   •     Train hiring managers on how to avoid discrimination during the hiring process.

   •     Establish neutral and objective criteria to avoid subjective employment decisions based on personal stereotypes or hidden biases.


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