Hotel Employee Wins Substantial Discrimination Verdict

A jury, sitting in Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, awarded Freddrick MacMillan, an African-American employee who worked for Millennium Broadway Hotel in Manhattan, $1,000,000 in punitive damages and $125,000 in compensatory damages in a discrimination law suit. Mr. MacMillan, who has been an employee of Millennium for over two decades, sued the hotel in Federal District Court alleging that he was forced to work in a racially hostile work environment.
Mr. MacMillan alleged in his lawsuit that he was the only African-American employee working in the hotel’s engineering department. He further alleged that other mechanics as well as supervisors frequently used inappropriate racial terms in his presence in order to upset and harass him. Mr. MacMillan claimed that co-workers referred to him as “boy” and one of them suspended a lynched voodoo doll hanging from a noose in a supervisor’s office. The doll remained on a bulletin board in the supervisor’s office until a union representative intervened. Millennium failed to discipline anyone in the investigation that followed.
Under federal law, Mr. MacMillan was required to demonstrate that his workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, or insult that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of his employment, and create an abusive working environment.
The co-worker who displayed the voodoo doll and other co-workers who allegedly contributed to the hostile work environment have left the hotel since the law suit was filed. Mr. MacMillan has continued working as a mechanic for the engineering department at the Hotel.
The jury verdict in Mr. MacMillan’s favor and the subsequent award of compensatory and punitive damages comes as a caution to employers who fail to take proactive action in response to employee complaints regarding discriminatory harassment and hostile work environments. Not only is creating a hostile work environment in violation of federal law, but it can result in a significant monetary liability.