Bullying: A bad management strategy (but that doesn’t make it illegal)

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

There’s one or two in every workplace: a first-level supervisor who yells and screams at everyone. Bullying probably isn’t the best way to get the most out of employees, but that doesn’t make it illegal.

Recent case: Warren, who is black, sued the California Department of Corrections over the allegedly hostile work environment he had endured.

Warren said it was all because of his race. He described for the court six separate incidents, all involving his immediate supervisors. It did indeed seem like an unpleasant workplace, where routine questions brought on a barrage of yelling and screaming.

However, Warren couldn’t point to any racially tinged comments or other evidence that the supervisors doing the yelling were targeting him because of his race.

And the court said a reasonable employee wouldn’t have considered the yelling so hostile that it changed working conditions. It tossed out Warren’s case. (Lucas v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, No. C067859, Court of Appeal of California, 3rd Appellate District, 2012)

Final note: If you receive complaints about yelling and generally disrespectful behavior, do investigate. At a minimum, you want to make sure that there’s no discrimination going on. Does the supervisor target women? Only black or Hispanic workers? Are there other signs that the environment is hostile, such as the appearance of graffiti on bathroom walls? If so, you may have a problem for which yelling is just the symptom.

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