What Should I Do If My Boss Says Racist Things?

John Schnatter, founder and chairman of Papa John’s, openly stated in a conference call that “Colonel Sanders called blacks n––s” in an effort to deflect from the controversy surrounding statements he made about NFL players protesting during the national anthem. Amy Powell, president of Paramount Television, allegedly stated in a meeting that black women were “angry” about black men in interracial relationships and that black men had “mommy issues” because they were raised by single mothers. Both of which are generalizations and negative stereotypes about black people. Jonathan Friedland, Netflix’s chief communications officer, repeatedly used the N-word in a meeting with other Netflix staffers.

All of these people made racist and racially insensitive comments that could be race discrimination in meetings. All of them were punished by being fired or essentially forced to resign in the case of John Schnatter. While plenty of news outlets covered these incidents, no one has truly looked at one thing: the impact on minority employees at these companies.

Are Employees Protected From Reporting Race Discrimination?

In several of these incidents, the racist and racially insensitive comments were only discovered due to reports made by employees who found the comments offensive. Under Ohio law, those employees would be protected under Ohio Revised Code 4112, which protects employees from being retaliated against for speaking up against race discrimination. I would guess that similar state laws would be in effect in each of this incidences too.

Impact on Pending and Future Claims of Race Discrimination

It’s also important to look at the impact to cases or complaints of discrimination that may be currently pending or under investigation. Should the companies take complaints of discrimination made during each person’s respective tenures more seriously? I believe the answer here has to be yes. Even more so if a complaint was made about one of these individuals specifically. If the answer is no, then companies need to look at their particular policies and procedures for defending discrimination claims. Despite that analysis, each respective company will have a more difficult time disproving or arguing against an allegation when prudent employment law attorneys know that top executives made racist or racially insensitive comments.


Employees do not have to be subjected to comments that could be easily taken as race discrimination. If you or someone you know has a boss that routinely makes racist or racially insensitive comments, contact me today a free initial consultation!

Top Execs at Papa John’s, Netflix, and Viacom Terminated for Racist CommentsClick To Tweet

James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination, personal injury, and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.