To include in training: zero tolerance for religious name-calling

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in Discrimination and Harassment

If you are revising materials for anti-harassment training, don’t forget to include name-calling based on religion as a no-no. While most employees know it isn’t socially acceptable to use racial slurs, some may not realize that religion is an equally sensitive topic, especially for religions that have been targeted for abuse and worse for decades or even centuries.

While one or two incidents won’t necessarily mean a big jury verdict, why not eliminate potential litigation costs with solid education?

Recent case: Jeffrey is Jewish and claimed that a co-worker told him told him to shut up and called him a “Ju-Ju Bee.” On another occasion, he claimed his supervisor responded to a vacation request with “Ju wants to go on vacation.” When he was fired for poor performance and falsifying time records, Jeffrey sued, alleging religious harassment and hostility. Fortunately, an appeals court said the two incidents weren’t enough to support a lawsuit. It dismissed Jeffrey’s case. (Chick v. County of Suffolk, No. 13-1089, 2nd Cir., 2013)

Final note: This case went up to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals after it was dismissed at the trial court level. That meant additional time and legal bills for the employer.

It’s almost always more cost effective to prevent litigation than to defend against it. That’s why training sessions should include all forms of offensive conduct. Provide examples. You can use cases like this one to drive home the point.

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