‘Slave For A Day’ Comment Does Not Establish Harassment

In October 2009, when Atoya Alexander was a probationary officer with the New York Police Department, she alleged that Sergeant Leroy, her supervisor in the Conditions Squad of the 5th Precinct, openly announced that he was going to make someone his “slave for the day.” Alexander took this comment “personally since she was the only African-American in the room.” Alexander complained about this incident to Lieutenant Gatto, who neither reported it to the NYPD Office of Equal Opportunity, nor disciplined Sergeant Leroy.

Alexander alleged that Leroy subsequently retaliated against her by subjecting her to a ticket quota and engaging in other negative actions. Eventually, the Department terminated Alexander’s probation and she sued, claiming she was the victim of retaliation for reporting Leroy’s comments to Gatto.

A court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that Leroy’s comments were inadequate to establish a hostile work environment. The Court found that “to allege the existence of a hostile work environment, a plaintiff must show that the workplace was so severely permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that the terms of her employment were thereby altered. For racist comments, slurs and jokes to constitute a hostile work environment, there must be more than a few isolated incidents of racial enmity, meaning that instead of sporadic racial slurs, there must be a steady barrage of opprobrious racial comments.

“The only instance of alleged racially motivated discrimination or hostility is Sergeant Leroy’s slave for a day comment, which does not rise to the level of extraordinary severity needed to support a claim of racial discrimination resulting from a hostile work environment. In the absence of any other allegations of race-based discrimination, the Complaint, as pleaded, does not establish a claim for race-based discrimination.”

Alexander v. City of New York, 2013 WL 3943496 (E.D. N.Y. 2013).