MCAD Finds White Boss Liable for Racial Harassment Against White Employee In “Associational Discrimination” Case

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in a decision dated December 22, 2010, found in favor of a white heavy equipment operator named Eric Grzych on his complaint that his Caucasian boss, Vincent Iuliano, racially harassed him on the basis of his association with his fiancee, a black woman of Jamaican national origin.  Mr. Grzych complained that whenever he was in the office, Mr. Iuliano greeted him with offensive racist comments relating to his association with his fiancee.  Mr. Grzych claimed that his boss subjected him to a racially hostile environment by making the offensive comments.

The MCAD stated that Mr. Grzych, who is Caucasian, “has standing to file a claim of racial harassment, and can prove injury by virtue of his association with his fiancee, Keisha, a black Jamaican woman.”    Judith Kaplan, the hearing officer, found that Mr. Grzych was targeted for racial harassment by his boss because of his relationship with his fiancee, Ms. Murray.  The MCAD found individual liability on the part of Mr. Iuliano as the president of the company who made the racially offensive remarks.  The Commission found the company and Mr. Iuliano jointly and severally liable for unlawful discrimination on the basis of race and color.  The MCAD awarded Mr. Grzych $50,000 as compensation for emotional distress and assessed a $10,000 civil penalty.

The case is noteworthy because in order to establish a claim of racial harassment, the complainant must establish that he was a member of a protected class and that he was the target of the harassing acts based upon his membership in that class.  Rather than stating that Mr. Grzych was a member of a protected class, the hearing officer stated that race is a protected class and Mr. Grzych can prove injury by virtue of his association with his fiancee, a black Jamaican woman.  Interestingly, the MCAD cited to cases from other jurisdictions concerning associational discrimination.

For more information, or to discuss possible claims, contact Boston, Massachusetts employment law attorney, Maura Greene, Law Office of Maura Greene, LLC, Six Beacon St., Suite 205, Boston, MA 02108, at 617-936-1580.