If you want to make sure all managers and supervisors are playing by the nondiscrimination and no harassment rules, get out of the office and onto the shop floor. Someone from HR must visit each and every work location regularly—but unannounced. What you see may shock you but can prevent bigger trouble down the line.
Check bulletin boards, bathrooms and cubicles for obvious signs of harassment and discrimination. Of course, that includes the obvious like sexy calendar girl posters in plain view. But it also includes the not-so-obvious, like cartoons and notes posted on bulletin boards.
If you find signs of trouble, remove them right away. Then launch an investigation to catch and discipline those responsible for the offensive material.
Recent case: A resident of the retirement community where Vanessa Beard worked bit her. Beard’s employer fired her after the incident when Beard, who is black, allegedly refused to take a drug test. The company required the test within 24 hours of any on-the-job injury.
But Beard says she told her supervisor that although she had been bitten, she wasn’t injured.
Beard sued, alleging race discrimination.
Beard claimed that the same supervisor that ordered her to take the drug test also told Beard she had a policy of sending “the black girls out [for testing] even if they stub a toe.”
Beard also told the court that whenever there were “black events” in town, such as the “Black Expo,” would post a notice on the bulletin board letting nurses know that anyone who called in sick had to be personally seen by a nurse to verify the illness. Such draconian requirements weren’t in place for community events that attracted white, as well as black, participants.
The court said the “black girls” comments and the bulletin board postings could all be proof of disparate treatment based on race. It ordered a trial. (Beard v. Eagle Care, No. 1:06-CV-01580, SD IN, 2008)
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