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Boorish behavior isn’t always harassment

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in Human Resources

Employers aren’t liable for every problem between co-workers. Experiencing boorish or childish behavior isn’t enough for an employee to win a lawsuit.

Recent case: Paula Pusey, who is white, complained that a black co-worker approached her and said it was a “good day to be a black man.” He then allegedly followed up by grunting like an animal.

Pusey sued, alleging racial harassment. She claimed she feared his comment and grunts were meant to intimidate her because they fit the stereotype of black men as predatory animals that prey on white women.

But the court said the incident certainly wasn’t proof of racial animus. The sounds may have been childish, but they weren’t harassment. (Pusey v. UPS, No. 09-5976, 6th Cir., 2010)

Final note: Of course, poor behavior can interfere with productivity. The company eventually fired the co-worker.

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