There are some things that employers can’t control. One of those things is how employees act outside the workplace.
Take, for example, this recent case in which a co-worker allegedly attacked another worker after work and off the premises. That, concluded the EEOC, was a criminal matter and not something that was covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.
Recent case: Manuel, who is black, works as an aircraft mechanic. He claimed that a co-worker tailgated him after work one day. He said when they stopped their vehicles, the co-worker attacked Manuel with a chain.
Manuel filed a police report—and then an EEOC discrimination complaint.
The commission investigated and concluded that the matter was criminal in nature, not within its jurisdiction as an employment discrimination agency.
Manuel then filed a federal lawsuit, alleging he had been forced to work in a racially hostile environment. He added a workplace incident in which a co-worker allegedly produced a hangman’s noose from a cart.
The court dismissed the case, agreeing with the EEOC on the chain incident and pointing out that Manuel had never alleged a hostile work environment in his initial EEOC complaint. Therefore, he couldn’t add that claim later. (Anderson v. Sikorsky Support Services, No. 2:13-CV-208, SD TX, 2014)
Final note: Of course, if an employee complains about a noose in the workplace, take immediate action.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Beware disciplining by withholding pay raises
- No need for extra severance when laying off litigious staff
- Take action to separate, investigate as soon as you hear sexual harassment allegations
- Enforce policy to prove you don't tolerate harassment