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Don’t single out work force’s sole member of a protected class

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, little digs and inconveniences that don’t individually amount to much can add up to big trouble—especially if a supervisor constantly singles out the sole member of a protected class. Taken together, they can add up to a hostile work environment and a successful discrimination lawsuit.

It’s a good idea to regularly remind supervisors and managers that they must treat everyone alike, and that they can’t single out anyone for negative treatment of any kind.

Recent case: Raymond Jackson was the only black employee at the Boulder post office. He complained that his supervisor singled him out for harassing treatment—allegedly requiring him to wear a uniform when others didn’t have to, changing his hours so it became more inconvenient for him to get to work and refusing to allow him to cover for a vacationing co-worker (which would have meant more money for Jackson).

Jackson sued, alleging he worked in a hostile environment. The U.S. Postal Service argued that none of the things he complained about amounted to an adverse employment action. But the court said the case should go to trial. It reasoned that the small complaints can add up to possible harassment based on race. Now a jury will decide if that was the case. (Jackson v. Potter, No. 06-CV-01881, DC CO, 2008)

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