Sometimes, supervisors say stupid things. But unless a statement or action is outrageously offensive and clearly related to an employee’s race, ethnicity, sex or other protected category, it isn’t grounds for a harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
Recent case: Sanjay worked on a Snyders of Hanover production line. He was terminated for allegedly sleeping on the job. However, he appealed, explaining he was really just resting his eyes after flushing dust out of them. Snyders reinstated him. Later, Sanjay was fired for speeding up a production-line conveyor belt without permission.
He sued, alleging discrimination based on national origin and a hostile work environment. Sanjay claimed his supervisor had told him that if he needed to flush out his eyes, the supervisor would urinate in them.
The court tossed out the case. It noted that a single offensive comment is seldom enough to create a hostile environment.
Plus, there was nothing to tie the comment to national origin. (Bhanu v. Snyders of Hanover, No. 1:11-CV-1160, MD PA, 2012)
Final note: Snyders of Hanover probably got points for reversing its earlier. Don’t hesitate to overturn an obviously wrong decision.
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