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Discrimination? Maybe, maybe not—But retaliation is on the docket

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Manch McLaughlin, a 54-year-old employee in the gas operations plant of National Grid in Glenmont, claimed he was passed over for promotions for 26 years while newer employees moved up the ranks around him.

In April, he filed a federal age- and race-discrimination lawsuit against the company. He included a list of all the promotions to management positions for which he had either been passed over or denied a chance to apply.

Shortly after, he came into the locker room to find a stuffed gorilla in the corner, recalling a similar January 2006 incident at Super Steel in Glenville, where a black employee who had complained of race discrimination found a stuffed gorilla with a noose around its neck in his locker.

McLaughlin complained about the gorilla, which stayed in the locker room the following day, before finally disappearing. In the wake of his complaints, McLaughlin began receiving bad performance reviews and reprimands.

Final note: Too often companies, faced with an uncertain outcome in a discrimination lawsuit, seal their fates by allowing retaliatory behavior. Keep in mind that an employee can lose a discrimination suit, but still prevail on retaliation charges. Then somebody’s idea of a joke can come back and haunt you. No doubt the gorilla will make an appearance in McLaughlin’s case.

Incidents like this make for more than bad publicity—they also lead to costly lawsuits.
 

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