Clamp down on teasing to stop hostile environment suit — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Clamp down on teasing to stop hostile environment suit

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Unless it’s egregious and outrageous (something like a clearly racist epithet or a dangling noose), a one-time derogatory comment likely won’t become the foundation for a hostile environment lawsuit—if you take immediate steps to stop any escalation.

Recent case: Flora Selby, an Asian-Pacific Islander, worked for Tyco until she was fired for alleged insubordination and leaving work early.

She sued, alleging she had been subjected to a hostile environment based on her national origin. Her evidence was that one time a co-worker mimicked her accent. It never happened again.

The court tossed out the case, reasoning that the one-time incident wasn’t enough to warrant a lawsuit. Simple teasing is different from a pattern of harassment meant to humiliate someone based on protected characteristics. (Selby v. Tyco Healthcare, No. 07-15810, 11th Cir., 2008)

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