Bone-headed boss? Quick stop saves the day — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Bone-headed boss? Quick stop saves the day

Get PDF file

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, supervisors say stupid things. How you respond may mean the difference between winning or losing a lawsuit based on those comments.

Get him to shut up and chances are not much will come of a lawsuit. Otherwise, you may soon find yourself defending why you allowed a hostile work environment to exist.

Bottom line: If you find out a supervisor said something stupid or even vaguely offensive, have the supervisor apologize and make sure he or she understands the behavior must stop.

Recent case: Hartley is a 58-year-old black Jewish man born in Jamaica. He worked as a security guard. Years ago, Hartley requested the week of Passover off for vacation. That’s when a supervisor allegedly said, “How come you’re black and you observe Passover? Isn’t that only for Jews?” A bad joke followed: “What do you call someone who is black and Jewish? A Bluish.”

Much later, after a series of unrelated work problems, including late vacation paychecks and altered job responsibilities, Hartley sued. He threw in allegations of a hostile work environment based on the supervisor’s comments.

Fortunately for the employer, the court said the comments, which were made several years before the later allegations, did not create a hostile work environment. (White v. Andy Frain Services, No. 12-CV-5868, ED NY, 2014)

Final note: Include sensitivity training in your supervisory training curriculum. Remind supervisors and managers that workers come from a wide range of backgrounds and that stereotypes about religions, ethnicities and national origins are just that—stereotypes. Jews, Christians and Muslims come from many backgrounds. Making a joke at the expense of individuals who don’t fit those stereotypes is, at best, in bad taste. At its worst, it creates potential liability for tolerating a hostile work environment.

Leave a Comment

 

Previous post:

Next post: