When promoting someone from the rank-and-file to first-level
Here’s why: If the employee you have selected as a supervisor has a hidden history of discriminatory behavior, you’ll want to make sure that’s all in the past.
For example, let’s assume an employee has a habit of calling a co-worker names. While they work together, the affected co-worker may let the matter go. But once the employee takes on a supervisory role, your responsibility for his or her conduct grows. Plus, the employee is unlikely to change unless he or she undergoes training.
Why is it important? If someone who believes they have experienced a hostile work environment fails to use your company’s discrimination-complaint process, you’re protected against federal claims. But that’s not true if the complaint involves a supervisor’s alleged harassment. For that, you have clear liability.
Recent case: Jeffrey Edwards, who is black, sued the town of Huntington and several individuals for allegedly creating a hostile work environment. Edwards claimed a co-worker—who later became his supervisor—taunted him with racist comments. Edwards never used the organization’s discrimination-complaint process.
Because some of the comments may have taken place after the co-worker became Edwards’ supervisor, the court concluded the employer wouldn’t be protected from liability just because Edwards didn’t use the internal process. It ordered a trial. (Edwards v. Town of Huntington, et al., No. 05-CV-339, ED NY, 2007)
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