The answer is “yes,” according to a recent federal appeals court decision.
Plaintiff, an African-American, worked for Fannie Mae, and when he was given a promotion without a raise, he was allegedly told “For a young black man smart like you, we are happy to have your expertise; I think I’m already paying you a lot of money.”
The Court found that given this backdrop, when a VP allegedly later told him to “get out of my office nigger,” this latter statement (if indeed made) was severe enough to in and of itself be considered a hostile work environment.
The appeals court denied summary judgment to Fannie Mae, and held that the “young black man” comment is arguably direct evidence of discrimination. A hostile work environment arguably existed based upon the single use of the “N-word,” a racial epithet that the Court said was “deeply offensive,” and, quoting other courts, noted “perhaps no single act can more quickly alter the conditions of employment” than “the use of an unambiguously racial epithet such as ‘nigger’ by a supervisor.”
The Court concluded that “This single incident might well have been sufficient to establish a hostile work environment,” especially in light of the “young black man” statement.