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Trainer uses drill sergeant tactics? Make sure it’s ‘Equal opportunity pressure’

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Some managers, especially those with extensive military training, may rely on techniques straight out of boot camp. Under the right circumstances, they can be very effective trainers, who get results and create an effective team. But loud, intimidating and in-your-face behavior comes with a huge risk.

If the drill sergeant picks on a member of a particular sex, race or nationality, you just may have a harassment lawsuit on your hands. If reports filter in about abusive or over-the-top management behavior, investigate immediately. If you find discriminatory conduct, take action.

Recent case: Norfolk Southern Railroad accepted Charmia Carter into its railroad conductor training program.  Almost immediately, Carter started complaining that her trainer yelled, cursed and otherwise treated his trainees poorly. When management investigated, no other employees would back up Carter’s specific claims. Several, however, did say the trainer used profanity and was brusque with all the trainees, not just Carter.

Carter left the training program and sued, alleging sexual harassment. But she couldn’t substantiate severe and pervasive harassment because of her sex. Basically, even if her claims were true, there was no evidence the trainer yelled or cursed at her because she was a woman. Plus, the court said that when the railroad investigated, it did warn the trainer to be less confrontational. (Carter v. Norfolk Southern Railroad, No. 4:06-CV-058, MD GA, 2007)

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