Employers in Tennessee and around the country may face harsh criticism from media outlets, advocacy groups and the public when they do not take firm steps to address racial discrimination and harassment. This is the situation the Transportation Security Administration finds itself in following a recent incident at Miami International Airport. Two officers were placed on administrative leave after an offensive display, which was described as a noose by the local media, was discovered in a screening area. However, it is the agency’s initial response to the incident that has drawn the most criticism.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for a public inquiry after learning that a TSA supervisor initially brushed the July 21 incident off as a joke. The TSA says that it plans to deal with the officers involved internally. However, that’s not good enough according to the NAACP. A TSA representative responded to the criticism by pointing out that the display was removed immediately after being discovered in an area not open to the public.
The Miami International Airport incident isn’t the only recent example of disturbing workplace racism. A black worker alleged that a noose was placed on his desk in a lawsuit filed against Boeing in June, and several black UPS employees reported finding a noose at one of the shipping company’s Ohio distribution facilities in March.
Incidents such as these are often signs of a toxic environment. When attorneys with experience in this area can produce evidence that suggests such an environment exists, it could encourage employers to eschew litigation and settle workplace discrimination claims at the negotiating table. Examples of strong evidence include inappropriate language or humor, offensive workplace displays or decor and company policies or procedures that are discriminatory in nature.