Before you can fix a problem like offensive graffiti in the workplace, you have to know it exists. Short of conducting spot inspections, the only way you will know what’s going on away from headquarters and in the trenches is from employee and supervisor complaints.
That’s why you should make it mandatory for all supervisors to report potentially harassing events and offensive expression such as graffiti. Explain that reporting isn’t optional—and that failing to bring the matter to HR’s attention will result in discipline.
Recent case: Firefighter Michael Jones is black and had front-line supervisory authority. All supervisors were required to report up the chain of command any incidents involving discrimination or harassment so that they could be investigated.
While undergoing diversity training at a fire department facility, Jones and two fellow firefighters went to the men’s restroom. There, all three noticed that the letters “KKK” were carved into the wall. They discussed it among themselves. Jones even told how he and his father had once seen the Ku Klux Klan march through town. The men then returned to their training session.
Jones didn’t report the incident to his supervisor. The other two did. The supervisor didn’t take the matter further up the chain until sometime later, when the other men continued to complain.
The department then investigated and had the carving removed. It also disciplined Jones and the supervisor who failed to take the complaint higher. Both got a one-day suspension and a one-year probationary period.
Jones sued, alleging a racially hostile work environment based, in part on the KKK carving.
The court dismissed his claim, reasoning that it was disingenuous for Jones not to report the incident but make it part of his lawsuit. (Jones v. City of Franklin, No. 10-5831, 6th Cir., 2012)
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