Train Managers and Supervisors to Watch Their Words

To repeat from yesterday: Isolated remarks related to an employee’s national origin may not be enough to support a claim of discrimination, but they can lead to costly lawsuits. During training, be sure that managers and supervisors understand the negative consequences of making “politically incorrect” comments.
What the court said
The appeals court affirmed, saying Akila did not establish a prima facie case of national origin discrimination. “To be sure, the ‘Third World’ reference was an offensive, insensitive, and politically incorrect jab; it was directed, however, at the procedure, not … [Akila’s] national origin,” the court said.
The Third World comment, a reference to her as “T.W.,” and the discussion of a “strategy” to address her performance issues do not support a claim of discrimination, the court said. The court noted that Akila did not provide a link between statements about a strategy and comments about the Third World. In addition, Akila said no one at the university made any disparaging comments about Egypt or its people, customers, culture, religious practices, or traditions. Rashdan v. Geissberger et al. (No. 12-16305) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Cir., 8/26/14)

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Training takeaway
Train managers and supervisors to embrace diversity and to avoid discrimination. Explain the potential far-reaching effects of allowing politically incorrect comments to be made in the workplace. Even if such comments do not amount to discrimination, they could lead to morale and performance problems and, as in this case, a legal battle.
Managers should not make derogatory or politically incorrect comments about others, and they should not tolerate such comments by anyone in the workplace. Make sure they understand the ramifications of such behavior, and train them on what procedures to follow if they become aware that others in the workplace are using derogatory, politically incorrect, or discriminatory language and/or exhibiting discriminatory behavior.

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