Enforcement of workplace racial discrimination policies saves on the bottom line.

by on January 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Identify potential racial discrimination cases before they escalate

If racist language surfaces where you work, don’t wait for a complaint before you intervene. By then it could be too late.

Quelling hate speech early can avoid racial discrimination in the workplace claims down the road. As this case shows, even when an employer wins, it’s a drain on company resources.

William Hrobowski, an African-American, was the safety director for a steel manufacturer. Routinely, Hrobowski’s coworkers used the “N word” around the shop.

None of the offenders supervised Hrobowski, and the racial epithets weren’t hurled at him, but simply used in his presence.

Hrobowski mentioned this to two other managers. But his comments were viewed more as observations than complaints – until Hrobowski filed a hostile work environment lawsuit.

A district court and an appeals court both found the employer blameless for the workplace racial discrimination. Hrobowski’s job hadn’t been threatened, and although the language was offensive, he hadn’t put his employer “on notice.” He’d merely mentioned the incidents in passing.

The employer prevailed, but two trials were costly and avoidable. Had HR enforced a zero-tolerance policy on every form of racial discrimination in the workplace, the lawsuit might never have been filed.

Cite: Hrobowski v. Worthington Steel Co., U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, 03-2167, 2/17/04.

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