While racial harassment is limited only by the imagination of the bigoted minds that engage in it, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has put together a website of some of the worst cases it has been pursuing.
Racial slurs predominate, but physical abuse and threatening imagery, such as nooses, are commonplace in these workplaces too. Retaliatory terminations for complaints feature in many of the cases.
To be actionable, racial harassment must be pervasive or severe (though often it’s both), and be such that a court would conclude that it affected the terms and conditions of employment. One remark is unlikely to support a suit, unless it’s from a top manager, and is accompanied by a job effect, like demotion or firing. In the ordinary situation where lower line supervisors or coworkers are engaging in the harassment, other employees need to speak up, complaining to Human Resources, higher management, central corporate headquarters, and keeping a record of the complaints. The employer is liable for damage caused by the harassment if it has knowledge it’s going on, and fails to do anything about the atmosphere.