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When employee alleges management bias, don’t blindly accept the boss’s denial

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Surprise! Some of your supervisors may be biased—something they would probably deny if confronted. If an employee complains that her boss is prejudiced, don’t just accept the manager’s protestations of innocence as the last word. Investigate instead.

Otherwise, you may end up facing a jury that will have to decide who is telling the truth.

Recent case: Mussarat is a Muslim from Pakistan. She worked as a pre­­school teacher at the YWCA of Han­­over, where all the other em­­ployees were white Christians.

Mussarat sent several emails to HR complaining that her supervisor was treating her poorly. She said, among other things, that her boss ridiculed her native dress as “weird,” refused to give her time off for religious holidays (proclaiming that only Christian holidays would be celebrated) and once called Mussarat a “brown bitch.”

The supervisor denied the allegations in each complaint and HR didn’t do anything further. For ex­­ample, it never interviewed anyone who might have witnessed the alleged incidents.

Mussarat sued, alleging discrimination based on religion and national origin.

The court said the case could go to trial, noting that although the supervisor denied any of the incidents actually happened, a jury might choose to believe Mussarat. If true, her allegations would be evidence of harassment and discrimination based on religion or national origin. This case will likely come down to one person’s word against another’s. (Syed v. YWCA of Hanover, No. 1:10-CV-02177, MD PA, 2012)

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