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Recreational Racism and Other Forms of Discrimination in the Workplace

In Brazil, it is very common for the most perverse forms of offense to people's dignity to be "camouflaged" (or attenuated) by humor. Whether on television, in films and series, or in comedy shows, it is very common for minority groups to be the targets of "jokes" or the object of the laughter of offenders.

In the workplace, it's no different.

The typical comicity of Brazilian society is often internalized in the work environment. And accompanied by jokes and jokes, in some cases, is prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination.

Doctor of Law from Harvard University and Specialist in Anti-Discrimination Law, the jurist and Professor Adilson Moreira highlights in his book "Recreational Racism" how the work environment can be hostile to black people and how the judiciary mitigates these episodes.

It was based on the teachings of the jurist in reference that Judge Renata Bonfiglio, of the 27th Labor Court of São Paulo / SP, delivered sentence[1] condemning a communication company for the practice of recreational racism.

In the specific case, a black woman, employed in the communication agency, suffered the so-called "recreational racism" by her supervisor, who opened a virtual team meeting stating that "I want to see everyone and soon I will set up a meeting to see everyone's face. I want to see if this guy cut his hair and if Rafa is still black." The phrase in question began circulating in the company's internal conversation groups and, about two months later, the offended employee was fired.

After the dismissal, the maid filed a Labor Complaint, claiming compensation for the moral damage suffered, which was granted in the Judgment in reference. In her Decision, the Judge highlighted the teaching of Professor Adilson Moreira, who explains the concept of microaggression as the "act or speech that expresses contempt or condescension towards minority groups; differs from the open form of discrimination, as it offends, consciously or not, and may occur without violating legal norms."

For the sentencing Judge, the supervisor's speech is an example of a behavioral pattern rooted and naturalized in our society that must be reviewed and fought – which is why he ordered the company to pay compensation for moral damages in the amount of R$ 20,000 in favor of the employee.

As highlighted in the Sentence, the offensive speeches that are camouflaged in humor are very common and natural in Brazilian behavior and have as main targets minority groups such as women, black and black, indigenous, people with disabilities, obese and people from the LGBTI+ community. It is very common for offenders to try a perverse form of entertainment based on the natural characteristics of these individuals or based on equally evil stereotypes.

Decision issued by the 1st Class of the Regional Labor Court of the 23rd Region (Mato Grosso),[2] in turn, condemned a refrigerator company to indemnify lesbian maid who was the target of "jokes" related to her sexual orientation by her immediate superior.

Rapporteur of the Judgment, Judge Osmair Couto, said in his vote that "With due view, speaking, in an offensive tone, to the co-worker and homosexual woman she needs a man, as well as determining that she should do heavier work because she wanted to be a man, it does not seem to us to be the exercise of such freedom tolerated among colleagues in the workplace".

As a way to combat this structuring prejudice of Brazilian society in the workplace, it is important that employers promote educational campaigns for their employees, in order to demonstrate to workers that there is no fun in "jokes" that make someone feel offended.

If the offense has already been committed, it is important that the company's Human Resources Department take appropriate action against the offending person as soon as possible. Depending on the degree of the offense, the penalty may vary from written warnings, even to the temporary suspension of the Labor Contract or dismissal for just cause based on art. 482(j) of the Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT).

[1] News published by the Regional Labor Court of the 02nd Region (SP) available in:, access on 05/26/2021.

[2] News published by the Regional Labor Court of the 23rd Region (MT) available in:, access on 05/27/2021.


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