What in the heck could this company have possibly been thinking?!?!? (Allegedly.)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing an employer for race and color discrimination. And water is wet.

But what makes this one so 😲😨🤯?

Check out the allegations from this press release that I read yesterday in the EEOC newsroom announcing a new Title VII lawsuit:

[A black employee] attended a December 2019 holiday party in which management called him to the front of the room and handed [him] a trophy labeling him as the employee “Least Likely to Be Seen in the Dark.” [The recipient] and other employees in attendance found the trophy profoundly offensive. [The recipient] complained about the trophy to the general manager, who told him the trophy was a joke. No remedial action was taken in response to his complaints. After [the complainant] returned to work following the holiday party, other employees teased [him]. One employee told [the complainant] he needed to smile to be seen in the poorly lit section of the auto dealership. [The victim] could no longer tolerate the work environment and was forced to resign, according to the suit.

If true — remember, these are just allegations in a complaint — this is so messed up.

And it could have been avoided so easily. Indeed, some takeaways here are from Respect in the Workplace Training 101

  • Intent does not matterThis reminds me of when I had to counsel a client about two white employees who challenged one another to see who could make a black co-worker’s “Employee of the Month” photo look more “thug.” You can imagine some of the stuff they did with Photoshop. But, who would have guessed that they would have then enlarged, printed, and displayed the pictures in the office hallway?!? When I eventually interviewed the two white employees, they claimed that they hadn’t done anything malicious. Rather, they were just joking and tried to make their black co-worker, who was relatively new to the company, feel like one of the team. Fortunately, the victim had a good enough sense of humor about it, and the matter did not spawn into a lawsuit because the company took the matter seriously. Speaking of which…
  • Take all complaints of harassment seriously. As the EEOC noted in its press release, “the defendant should have properly responded to the complaints made by [the employee] about the holiday party. Employers are required to take prompt effective remedial measures in response to complaints about discrimination.” A bad situation was made worse — lawsuit bad — because the company seemingly dismissed a black employee’s complaints of discrimination which forced him to resign.


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