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When racially charged symbols appear, remove them ASAP and punish culprits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Here’s an incentive to keep ra­­cially hostile symbols out of the workplace: In a case that resulted in no other damages, five black em­­ployees received $50,000 each for spotting a noose at work.

Recent case: The EEOC sued L.A. Pipeline Construction after several black employees claimed they had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment. They said management did nothing to prevent co-workers from hanging nooses in the workplace. A noose is a long-standing symbol of lynching and oppression that evokes anxiety in many black employees whose ancestors may have been hanged.

The company never hired an attorney, apparently thinking the problem would go away. It didn’t, of course, and the court entered judgment for the employees without a trial.

Then the judge calculated how much the harassment was worth and came up with $50,000 per em­­ployee for mental pain and suffering. (EEOC v. L.A. Pipeline Construction Company, No. 2:08-CV-840, SD OH, 2011)

Advice: Prevention is better than a cure. Employers must be proactive about preventing a racially hostile work environment. If something like a noose shows up at work, re­­move it immediately.

If the culprit who brought and ­displayed the noose is caught, dis­cipline him or her. Then follow up with harassment training so other employees understand you take this kind of harassment seriously. Finally, conduct sur­­prise spot checks and ­follow up with affected employees to see if they are satisfied with the outcome.

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