Watch your mouth: Obscure terms could trigger lawsuit — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Watch your mouth: Obscure terms could trigger lawsuit

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Occasionally, an employee correctly uses an obscure word that someone else mistakes for an offensive one. When that happens, suggest using another term even if the term they are using is technically appropriate.

Recent case: Nathaniel Blackmore, who is black, was hired to do general labor work on a road construction site. He overheard a co-worker use the term “n_____head” in a conversation and assumed it was being used to describe him.

After he was fired for attendance problems, Blackmore sued for a racially hostile environment. He used the alleged name-calling incident as evidence.

But the employer persuaded the court that the term is actually one used to refer to an outcropping of rock up ahead. The case was dismissed. (Blackmore v. American Infrastructure, No. 08-CV-2302, ED PA, 2009)

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