We’re all different, and personality conflicts are a fact of life. Ideally, a workplace should be a model of cooperation and accommodation with as little friction as possible. But if your organization has yet to reach that corporate nirvana, don’t lose too much sleep over how people treat each other.
Look at the big picture. If an informal audit of hiring and discipline reveals no obvious problems with race, sex, national origin, disability or other discrimination, chances are there isn’t a successful lawsuit brewing—even if some supervisors and subordinates may not be on the best of terms. As the following case shows, minor slights and unfair treatment aren't enough for a lawsuit.
Recent case: Teresa Batuyong, who is Filipino American, works as a secretary at the U.S. Defense Department. She claimed that one of her supervisors didn’t like the fact that she often spoke out about equal opportunity issues.
When she needed to take some time off for knee surgery, Batuyong claimed that her supervisor and the HR office made her get additional information from her doctors rather than simply approve her request for advanced sick leave. They eventually approved her time off, but only after some hassle.
Batuyong sued, alleging that she had been targeted because of her national origin. She claimed that the additional paperwork was unfair and that no one else had to jump through those kinds of hoops. However, she couldn’t point to another person who wasn’t a member of her protected class who had been treated more favorably.
The court dismissed her case. It reasoned that much of what she complained about could be explained by inexperience in the HR office and simple personality conflicts with her supervisor. There was no evidence that the conflict was due to race or national origin. (Batuyong v. Department of Defense, No. 1:07-CV-944, ND OH, 2008)
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