You may think that time is on your side after you tackled hostility in the workplace. But that isn’t always the case. For example, firing an employee who had to work in a hostile work environment for years may still mean liability, even if you recently cleaned up the workplace.
That’s because if he can point to even one recent incident, he can bring the others in as part of a hostility pattern.
Recent case: Jackie, who is black, was fired from his job at a car wash after allegedly writing up an incorrect estimate. Shortly before, he had washed his personal car and asked some co-workers to dry it. His boss told them not to, even though (Jackie would later allege) white employees were allowed to have other employees dry their cars.
Jackie sued, claiming he had worked in a racially hostile work environment.
He outlined a long history of poor treatment on account of his race, including being denied promotions and having to perform menial work that white employees avoided. The car wash argued that all those incidents, if they had occurred, happened more than 180 days before Jackie filed his EEOC complaint. Therefore, it said, they didn’t count.
The court disagreed. As long as one potentially racially motivated incident occurred within 180 days of the complaint, Jackie could use the earlier incidents to prove the environment had been hostile for much longer. (Chester v. Adams Auto Wash, No. 5:13-CV-75, ED NC, 2014)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Remind supervisors: You don't tolerate name-calling, especially when it's race-based
- Sexual Harassment: Sample Policy
- Follow up with harassed employee to check for retaliation--and prevent future lawsuits
- Have the supervisor or manager who did the hiring be the one to handle the firing