Some people in Dallas do some dumb stuff.
For example, every year, many locals hold out hope into late December or early January that the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl. After their hopes get dashed when the team inevitably chokes, the fans irrationally board the bandwagon the following Summer. It’s crazy!
But not as nuts as what I’m about to tell you.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company held a holiday party in December 2019. At the party, management called one of the attendees, a black employee, to the front of the room. There, they handed him a trophy, labeling him as the employee “Least Likely to Be Seen in the Dark.”
For context, in 2019, the Cowboys suffered one of their typical late-season collapses, losing four of the last six games to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. So, perhaps some at the company were racking their brains about how to raise holiday cheer, given the Cowboys’ annual failed pursuit of a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
But, FFS. “Least Likely to Be Seen in the Dark”?!?
The EEOC further alleged in its lawsuit several employees in attendance found the trophy offensive, the recipient among them. He subsequently complained about the trophy to the general manager, but the company failed to take any remedial action. Instead, after the employee returned to work following the holiday party, other employees teased Sellers about the trophy and subjected him to offensive comments.
As one might predict, this became a very expensive trophy for the employer. The company settled the subsequent EEOC-led lawsuit for $22,500.
To the credit of the lawyers defending the company, they wrote to the court, “No one can defend the trophy…It is indefensible.”
One of the EEOC’s lawyers further noted, “It is difficult to understand how almost 60 years after the passage of Title VII, with its prohibitions against employment discrimination, managers facilitate or permit blatant derogatory treatment based on an employee’s race or skin color. Leadership of businesses, big or small, must communicate expectations clearly and demonstrate explicitly that discriminatory conduct will not be tolerated in the workplace.”
If there’s any silver lining, I can add a new slide to my “Respect In the Workplace” training deck and distinguish between racist behavior (illegal) and making fun of Dallas Cowboys fans (totally legal).
Speaking of which, if it has been some time since your business provided anti-harassment training to its employees, managers, or human resources, I know a guy who presents an engaging session and makes clear with examples like this of the type of behavior that employers should never tolerate.