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You can mandate respectful behavior, discipline violators

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

It’s a stressful world out there, and workplace tension can make matters worse. That’s one reason you may want to consider instituting a civility code at work. Then, if an employee is rude, overbearing or downright offensive, don’t hesitate to discipline her.

Recent case: Gloria Woodard, who is black, was fired from her job with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). One reason: her habit of talking down to other employees and sometimes getting in their faces with an attitude.

The NCDOT said it had a long-established civility code that said employees were to treat others with the “respect due them as fellow workers. They shall be courteous, civil and respectful….”

Woodard sued, alleging race discrimination. However, she couldn’t point to other employees who had been allowed to act disrespectfully. Therefore, her case was dismissed. Her own discourteous behavior was a workplace rule violation and a legitimate reason for her discharge. (Woodard v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, No. 3:06-CV-264, WD NC, 2007)

Final note: Another good reason for a civility code: If you enforce the rules, you may cut the chances of creating a racially or sexually hostile environment. Employees who see you are serious about treating everyone with respect—regardless of race, sex or other characteristics—may think twice before mouthing off.

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