Root out subtle but pervasive hostility—It’s harassment even if it’s not severe — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Root out subtle but pervasive hostility—It’s harassment even if it’s not severe

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Tell your managers to take note: Allowing one or two employees to poison the workplace, even with low-level harassment, is dangerous. Racial comments don’t have to include the use of especially vulgar epithets. A constant barrage of racially tinged comments may warrant a jury trial if someone claims the workplace is a racially hostile environment.

The charge: The harassment is pervasive, even if it is not severe.

Recent case: Kenyatta Woods, who is black, worked for Xcel Energy as a data-entry operator. When the company hired a white co-worker, Woods trained her. The two didn’t get along, largely because Woods thought her co-worker was a racist.

Over the next few months, the white co-worker made numerous comments about Woods in particular and blacks in general. For example, she told others that Woods was a “bitch” and that people like her “will miss work for any reason.” She also complained that her black neighbors were probably drug dealers because they owned nice cars but rented their homes. Day after day, the workplace was allegedly filled with innuendo about black people and their supposed deficiencies.

When Woods lost her job for allegedly breaking company rules, she sued for discrimination and a hostile work environment. The court dismissed all her complaints except for her hostile-environment claim. It said a jury should decide whether the constant comments were pervasive enough to create a racially hostile environment. (Woods v. Xcel Energy, No. 06-CV-5014, DC MN, 2008)

Final note:
Don’t let one employee poison the atmosphere. Discipline and fire those who can’t keep their misguided, biased opinions to themselves.

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