Sex on the Floor

Black Man Charges His White Female Boss Sexually Harassed and Discriminated Against Him at the New York Stock Exchange

LeRoy Crawford is no crusader against Wall Street. But he is aware of the impact a favorable verdict might have on other potential lawsuits alleging racial discrimination in hallowed halls like the New York Stock Exchange.

"As an African American man, I had grown accustomed to the subtle slights and indignities thrown my way," said Crawford, who started as a page on the trading floor in 1988. "Nothing, however, prepared me for the blatant and direct racism that I was confronted with at the New York Stock Exchange. This proved to be the worst experience of racism I had ever encountered."

illustration by Justin Hampton

As a page, Crawford's primary job was to hand-deliver written orders to and from the booths where member traders were locked in communication with various brokerage houses.

"The atmosphere on the floor was usually high-energy and extremely stressful," he recalled. "But what made it even more difficult for African Americans was the pervasive atmosphere of blatant discrimination and racism that was tolerated and accepted as normal. African American people were made to know their 'place.' African American people were there to serve. You can count the number of African American members on two hands. Many times while I was standing on the trading floor I would hear white members making racial slurs about African Americans. It was as if we were invisible. This attitude was allowed to continue because the message that filtered down from the highest level of the NYSE management was that the members could do and say anything that they wanted."

There was nothing the pages could do about blatant racism masquerading as arrogance. "The members did not care that there were African American people within earshot of them," Crawford claimed. "All of the African American pages knew that the NYSE management would not take action against a member for racist remarks. It just was not done. We were expected to just take it. My stomach would twist and knot as I heard these comments. African Americans were referred to as 'jungle-monkey niggers.' The men were called 'boy.' There was no end to stereotypical jokes that linked us to watermelons. There were also jokes about African American features, such as our 'plate lips.' African American women had 'big asses.' "

A disillusioned Crawford did everything he could to escape the alleged racism. "My goal, though, was to get off the trading floor," he said. "I had lost all interest in going to a firm once I saw firsthand the racism in the brokerage houses. Little did I know then that I would be trading off one form of discrimination for another form of discrimination and harassment."

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