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One Noose Is Enough

Daryle Washington, who is African American, sorted waste for Recology in San Francisco. In December 2013, a noose appeared on the sorting line. Washington’s co-worker, Jon Peralta, took the noose, placed it on the backpack of another African American employee, and then tightened the noose “as if he was putting it on someone’s neck.” Washington witnessed these events and immediately complained to his supervisor.

Recology investigated, which resulted in Peralta’s suspension, without pay.

When Peralta returned to work, mid-December 2013, Recology assigned him to a position on the sorting line next to Washington. This discomforted Washington, who complained to his manager about the arrangement. Nonetheless, Washington remained next to Peralta. In early January 2014, Peralta engaged in another incident that could have been motivated by race, which led to another round of suspensions, without pay, and a final warning of termination against Peralta. Peralta stopped his inappropriate conduct by the end of January 2014.

Washington sued Recology in November 2014 for racial harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment & Housing Act and Title VII. The Court upheld this claim.

“The severity of the hostility inherent in a display of a noose cannot be overstated,” the Court reasoned, as it “recalls atrocious acts of violence committed against African Americans.” While the Court recognized that the mere presence of a noose in the workplace may not be sufficient, it added that, in this case, a “jury may find that by directing a noose at a specific individual, Peralta communicated a threat of violence to all African Americans in the workplace, including [Washington].” See Don’t Rehang Noose for an opposite illustration.

And even though Recology made efforts to ensure Peralta stopped his conduct, the Court explained “a jury could also conclude that by placing Peralta directly adjacent to [Washington] on the sorting line just a week after the noose incident, [it] exacerbated the hostility that Peralta had already injected into the workplace.”