Based on the facts presented in the scenario below, how do you think the court ruled on this employment-law case?
Yolanda Marsh knocked on the office door of operations manager Cliff McDaniel. “Come in, Yolanda,” he said genially.
“I am so sorry to bother you, Mr. McDaniel,” she said. “But I’m at the end of my rope with Bobbi Lerner.”
“Your manager?” he asked.
“Yes,” Yolanda replied. “As a Bible-believing Christian, I’m supposed to forgive those who treat me harshly. But Bobbi has just gone too far in attacking my religion, and I felt like I had to come to you.”
“What’s going on?” Cliff asked.
Couldn’t go to church
“She stopped me from attending a service project at my church,” Yolanda said. “It was on the morning of July 4, but Bobbi said I had to work the holiday — even after my team leader said I could have the day off.
“And she made me start at 8, four hours before everybody else,” Yolanda continued. “If I’d been able to come in at noon, I could have made my church event. She said if I went to it she’d fire my, well, my behind. And that’s not all…”
“Go on,” Cliff said.
“Sometimes Bobbi tells me to go to my – I’m embarrassed – my effing God to see if he can save my job. And one day she showed me her new pair of shoes and said, ‘Your God didn’t buy me these. I did.”
Cliff sighed. “I’ll speak to Bobbi,” he promsied. “Look, she’s a little rough, but you know her bark is worse than her bite. You need to laugh her off sometimes.”
Things didn’t improve with Bobbi, and Yolanda felt forced to quit. She sued for religiously hostile work environment. Did she win?
Yes, Yolanda got the court to agree that her lawsuit was strong enough to go to trial, forcing the company to either settle out of court or incur further expenses defending itself before a jury.
The company argued that supervisor Bobbi’s actions weren’t frequent or severe enough to create a hostile work environment. But the court disagreed, saying Bobbi displayed a continuous pattern of “acrimony based on religion” that was enough to affect the conditions under which Yolanda had to work.
When a supervisor engages in verbally abusive behavior toward an employee, this can radically harm the person’s ability to do his or her job. And when the abuse is based on a legally protected characteristic — like race, sex, religion, age or disability – the supervisor’s conduct becomes even more problematic. Such abuse is a betrayal of the organization’s trust in the supervisor, and a surefire trigger for a discrimination lawsuit.
Cite: Dediol v. Best Chevrolet Inc., No. 10-30767, 5th Cir., 9/12/11. Fictionalized for dramatic effect.
photo credit: baltimoreheritage
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