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Don’t tolerate bully boss–but don’t fear bias lawsuit if he’s awful to everyone

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

While it’s unpleasant and unproductive, having a supervisor scream at subordinates isn’t grounds for a race discrimination lawsuit if he never uses racially offensive words.

Recent case: Lennie, who is black, worked at a facility that took medical waste from hospitals and doctors’ offices and processed it for disposal. Eventually he was terminated for violating safety rules.

However, before he was fired, Lennie filed a race discrimination complaint. He alleged that he had been discriminated against and forced to work in a hostile environment because his supervisor yelled at him. For example, the supervisor would tell him, “Get your ass to work.” Lennie said his boss sometimes threatened him, saying, “Keep that s**t up in here and you will be out of here.” After Lennie spilled a bin of waste, the supervisor allegedly yelled, “Don’t you ever f*****g do that again!”

At no time did the supervisor use racially charged words. Plus, it seems he yelled at other employees in the same way.

The court tossed out Lennie’s case because there was no evidence that the yelling was related to Lennie’s race or other protected characteristic. The court said general bullying isn’t enough for a discrimination lawsuit. (Senter v. Stericycle, No. 11-3713, DC MN, 2013)

Final note: Of course, you should discipline supervisors who resort to bullying behavior. Workers generally don’t perform at their best when they have to listen to a supervisor’s tirades every time they make a mistake.

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