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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Brandi Johnson Awarded $280,000 After Her Boss Rob Carmona of STRIVE Used the N- Word

Federal jury rejects ‘N-word’ among blacks in workplace 

Brandi Johnson sued her boss, STRIVE East Harlem founder Rob Carmona, after he targeted her in a slur-laced tirade. A Manhattan jury awarded $280,000 to Johnson, who recorded her boss using the epithet.

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Brandi Johnson

A Manhattan jury awarded $280,000 to a black woman who was repeatedly called the N-word by her boss — who’s also black, and claimed he used the vile epithet as an endearing term.

“My voice was heard today,” Brandi Johnson said Tuesday, after the eight-person federal jury awarded her $30,000 in punitive damages on top of the $250,000 it had already ordered STRIVE and its founder, Rob Carmona, to pay her in the discrimination case.

Carmona’s voice was also heard by the jury — on a damning tape recording Johnson had made of her boss chewing her out in March 2012.

In the tape, Carmona repeatedly uses the racial slur against the 38-year-old single mother of two and a co-worker.


“I’m not saying, using the term ‘n-----’ derogatory, ’cause sometimes it’s good to know when to act like a n-----. But y’all act like n-----s all the time,” Carmona said.

When Johnson told her boss she was offended by his language, he said, “You can be offended, but it’s true.”

“You and her act like n-----s. And n-----s let their feelings rule them,” he said.

Carmona didn’t dispute making the comments, but maintained that he was doling out “tough love.”


Rob Carmona

He testified that he was trying to tell Johnson she was “too emotional,” wrapped up in “the negative aspects of human nature.”

Carmona, who is black and of Puerto Rican descent, said the word has “multiple contexts” in the black and Latino communities, and not all of them bad.

He said the word can sometimes be used to convey love, and used the example of someone saying, “This is my n----.”

“That means my boy, I love him, or whatever,” Carmona said. Asked if he meant to indicate love when he called Johnson the word, he said, “Yes, I did.”


Rob Carmona leaving Federal court
Johnson didn’t take it that way. She testified that she cried in the bathroom for 45 minutes after the tirade.

“I was hurt. I felt degraded. I felt disrespected,” she said. “I was embarrassed.”

She said she was later fired from her management job for having complained about Carmona’s conduct.

She had worked there for two years.



Carmona testified that he was trying to tell Johnson she was 'too emotional,' wrapped up in 'the negative aspects of human nature.'

 The jury awarded Johnson $250,000 in compensatory damages last week, and another $30,000 in punitive damages on Tuesday — $25,000 of which Carmona will have to pay out of his own pocket.

Johnson’s lawyer, Marjorie Sharpe, said jurors “took a stand and said the N-word has no place in the workplace.”

Carmona is the founder of STRIVE, an East Harlem nonprofit that finds work for people from troubled backgrounds.

It claims to have helped nearly 50,000 people find work since 1984.

He insisted he wasn’t trying to offend Johnson with his use of the word.

“I come from a different time,” he said, adding that the verdict showed him he has to “take stock” about how he communicates “with people I’m trying to help.”

Sharpe called it “the most offensive word in the English language.”

“People have tried to take the sting away from the word,” she said. “The reality is that can’t happen.”

The lawyer for STRIVE, Diane Krebs, said the group was “disappointed” by the verdict and reviewing its options, including a possible appeal.

With News Wire Services

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