Thanks a LOT, Mr. President!

As you know, I strongly disapprove of use of the "N" word in the workplace. I don't think African-Americans should say it, and I really, really don't think people who aren't African-American should use it.


Well, this weekend President Obama used the "N" word, and he didn't say "the 'N' word." In a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron, the President was quoted as saying,

Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.

OK, I get his point, and the overall message was a good one. But now, how am I supposed to tell employees in harassment training that they can't use the word?

Here is my new rule, effective June 22, 2015 (the date that the Obama podcast was released):

It is all right to use the "N" word at work if, and only if, (1) you are African-American, and (2) you are the President of the United States.

Everybody else, please refrain.

(Here's a link in case you'd like to listen to the whole interview.)

Image Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons license, photo by Steve Jurvetson.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
Continue Reading



Back to Page