C. Severity of the N-Word at Work Is Analogous to One Instance of Sexual Assault.

In Title VII harassment cases, severity matters. Courts routinely contemplate a spectrum of indignity to assess severity. In workplace sexual harassment cases, courts have differentiated between conduct that is less severe - of which a single instance generally cannot give rise to liability - and more severe acts that, even in isolation, can alter the terms of the workplace and create a triable Title VII issue. See, e.g., Redd v. N.Y. Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 175-76 (2d Cir. 2012) (recognizing that while isolated incidents “usually will not suffice to establish a hostile work environment ... even a single episode of harassment can establish a hostile work environment if the incident is sufficiently ‘severe’ (collecting cases)). Courts routinely find that a single instance of sexual assault constitutes a “severe” act while a single touch to the shoulder or hair may not. See, e.g., Perry v. Slensby, 815 Fed. App'x 608, 610-11 (2d Cir. 2020) (single instance of shoulder touching and sexually inappropriate remarks not sufficiently severe); Ferris v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 277 F.3d 128, 136 (2d Cir. 2001) (explaining that a single instance can suffice when it is “sufficiently egregious” and finding episode of sexual assault sufficient).

Similarly, in the context of racial harassment, courts have recognized a spectrum of severity pegged to the offensiveness of the racial slur that is informed by the slur's historical weight. Like a single physical assault, a single encounter with the word “Nigger” at work may be “severe,” while other slurs that do not convey the same historical burdens and weight of meaning may not be. See, e.g., Ayissi-Etoh, 712 F.3d at 580 (Kavanaugh, J., concurring) (analogizing a single use of the N-word to “a single physical act - such as a physical assault - [which] can create a hostile work environment”). Simply put: the N-word in the workplace bears no resemblance to an “incidental” comment or contact that would be insufficient to establish liability in a sex harassment case. It is of a kind with an assault that singularly and immediately, alters the terms of the workplace.