Over the past few months, the name “Karen” has become social media shorthand to describe a woman who causes a scene over what is usually a minor infraction, such as reporting a child’s lemonade stand for selling without a permit. In addition to the name Karen, the women are sometimes called Becky while the male versions are known as Chad or Ken.
In most cases, the actions of a Karen are harmless, but there have been some altercations that have been called racial in motive. The following are situations where Karens go too far and run the risk of being arrested and sued in civil court.
False 911 Calls
There are some states that are passing legislation that could lead to criminal and civil penalties should a “Karen” use 911 to harass people based on their race, religion, sex, or any other protected class. In those states, the legislation would make anyone who is the target of one of those 911 calls a victim and allow them to take the caller to court.
In some states, the court action can be taken even if “Karen” is not convicted of making a false 911 call. The laws are in response to cases like Amy Cooper who called 911 when a black man in Central Park who was an avid bird watcher asked her to put her dog on a leash. Cooper called 911 and claimed an “African-American man was threatening her.”
What Would Establish Grounds for Lawsuits
Laws vary by state, but it is universally illegal to target someone based on a protected status. Some of the requirements that states have that could result in a “Karen” being sued include:
- Causing someone to be expelled from a place where they are lawfully located
- Causing someone to feel harassed, humiliated, or embarrassed
- Damaging someone’s reputation
- Economically or financially damaging someone or interfering with their business prospects, interests, or consumerism
- Infringement on the rights of others
In most states, a “Karen” could be charged with harassment as well as filing a false report, depending on how far she takes her outrage even if there are no specific laws regarding this type of activity.
Can a Karen Sue You?
There is no question that “Karen” has become a stereotype and is commonly used on social media as a derogatory term. Usually, the term is used in a meme or in a joking way online, but it is important to remember that calling someone a term that has been deemed derogatory could land you in legal trouble.
Defamation laws are designed to protect reputation and, if it can be proven your use of the name “Karen” defamed the person in any way, you may be facing a lawsuit as well. Although your comment may have been meant as a joke, subsequent comments could open you up to litigation.
For instance, if you belittled a “Karen” for making a scene at a business because she was not wearing a mask and people post derogatory comments on that post that you do not take down, the person you called a “Karen” could claim you were defaming her and file a civil suit against you.
In most cases, it is the “Karen” who has gone overboard, and, in some cases, her comments are veiled racial or gender attacks. If you have been the victim of a “Karen” and you feel her actions were due to your race, sexual orientation, gender or other factor protected by the law, you need to contact a civil rights lawyer who will guide you through the process.