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Don’t sweat small stuff–you won’t lose in court

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees expect the workplace to be a perfect place, free of all strife and disharmony. Too bad that’s an unrealistic standard.

In fact, the law does not require work to be perfect.

Employees have to develop some degree of tolerance for slights and inconveniences.

And even if callous supervisors and co-workers treat sensitive souls badly, that doesn’t mean discrimination is to blame.

Recent case: Ella Gray works at a Walmart store in Wilmington. She filed her own race discrimination lawsuit and tried to represent herself.

Gray, who is black, claimed that management treated her differently because of her race. She complained about having to work as a greeter in the garden section while white employees didn’t have to. Plus, she said managers sometimes waited until the last minute to invite her to social events.

Walmart argued that there was absolutely nothing to connect any of the alleged slights to her race. Plus, even if that were the case, none of the incidents was more than an inconvenience or the sort of thing that all employees sometimes have to endure at work.

The court agreed and tossed out the case. (Gray v. Wal-Mart Stores, No. 7:10-CV-171, ED NC, 2011)

Final note: Walmart handled this case very well. It made sure that supervisors didn’t retaliate against Gray after she filed an EEOC complaint and subsequent federal lawsuit. She remained employed, performing the same job she had done before.

When you receive an EEOC complaint, it is a good idea to instruct supervisors to ignore the fact that the complaint was filed. They should treat the employee just as they did before.

Double-check for any signs of retaliation. Review all subsequent employment actions involving the employee to make sure it was warranted.

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