by Dr. Jerome Rabow and Manpreet Dhillon
By now most Americans know that George Zimmerman fired a weapon on someone whom he believed to be a threat. Is it possible that you have a George or Georgette Zimmerman in your organization?
Without bringing guns to work, people do make statements that harm individuals, undermine morale, create anxiety and can lead to lawsuits. Such harmful statements can derive from fear, naiveté, ignorance, and jealousy. Can you imagine the following statements occurring in your organization?
- A White male, feeling that he wants to be completely honest, says to his Black coworker, “You’re so different than other Black people who are not very ambitious. Sometimes I don’t even think you’re Black.”
- A male speaking to a female colleague, feeling that he is expressing admiration, says, “I love that I can share all the jokes about women, with you, that my buddies and I make. It’s so great that I can treat you like you’re one of the guys and just enjoy myself.”
- “I can’t believe that you grew up in that community. I would never even drive through there because it’s too scary. It must really feel good that you never have to go back there again.”
- “I believe in equal rights but it really upsets me what your people are trying to do to marriage.”
- A male speaking to a female coworker, “You and I know why you got that promotion ahead of me and it has nothing to with your work.”
A State Representative can get away with remarks like, “Gays and lesbians are destroying our nation” (Sally Kern). But it is a lawsuit waiting to happen if it is expressed by someone in your organization. These may be hypothetical examples but similar remarks have resulted in lawsuits. Sony Records believed that the lyrics in one of its songs were harmless but was fined $1.2 million for a song deemed racist. See CCODE’s blog post: Sony Fined $1.2M for Racist Song.
As employers, it is your responsibility to make sure that you suspend judgments about the lack of harm that others may feel and take racial, gender, and homophobic slurs, stereotypes, and jokes, seriously. Your workplace may be very or modestly diverse. That diversity does not guarantee respect and safety within your organization.
To stop such complaints and lawsuits from occurring in your organization, take the required step and contact CCODE, if you don’t want a lawsuit.