Employees sometimes spot a pattern of outright hostility from a series of otherwise innocuous acts. That can lead to a hostile work environment lawsuit.
Recent case: Starbucks employee Mary Triplett, who is black, sued for discrimination and a hostile work environment. As evidence, she cited a white manager’s comment that Chicago has a larger black population than Boston, where she once lived. That manager also began requiring transit authority employees, most of them black, to buy something before using the store’s restrooms. And Triplett was disciplined for violations that white baristas were not.
The court tossed out Triplett’s hostile environment claim, saying the manager’s actions weren’t severe. However, it did say her discrimination claim might have merit. (Triplett v. Starbucks, No. 10-C-5215, ND IL, 2011)
- Your rules apply--even for employees preparing to sue
- Stamp out harassing behavior across the company
- Don't let fear of being sued stop you from disciplining employee
- Employee complaining about bias? Always investigate before imposing any discipline
- You don't always have to be right--as long as you act in good faith