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Former NYPD diver sues for racial harassment

The New York Police Department has 29 divers who are dispatched to search for submerged victims of accident, search for evidence in criminal investigations that may have been discarded underwater and similar duties. A man who joined the police force after working as a life guard in his younger years sought to join the scuba unit in 2003. The man’s penchant for physical fitness, his swimming abilities and work with the police force seemed to dovetail nicely for his desire to join the scuba team.

A transfer into the unit for the former lifeguard was blocked by a supervisor, according to a workplace discrimination lawsuit. The former life guard and avid surfer is African-American. His employment discrimination lawsuit says that the captain of the unit did not want the man to transfer into the unit because “black guys couldn’t swim,” according to the New York Times.

The man eventually made it onto the diving team, where he performed the duties of the job. But, he says that he was subjected to harassment and stereotyping while serving as a diver. Last year, the now 48-year-old former officer says that the harassment took a toll on him to the point where he was forced to retire. He is now seeking redress for the harassment that he endured while serving as the only black man in the diving unit.

Racial harassment that is persistent and severe enough so as to rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment is a form of discrimination. Harassment can involve the use of racial slurs in the workplace from co-workers or supervisors (or others). The use of derogatory language toward a person’s color or race and other racially-charged conduct in the workplace may also constitute workplace harassment. Often, harassment cases may involve situations where racially-offensive symbols have been scrawled on walls or displayed in other ways in the workplace.

Workers in New York who believe that an employer is allowing racial harassment to persist in the workplace should consider speaking with legal counsel to learn about the options that may be available.

Source: New York Times, “A Former Police Diver Claims Other Officers Racially Taunted Him,” Joseph Goldstein, Mar. 3, 2014

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