Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is Unwelcome Conduct?

Sometimes we join a work environment or our work environment changes into one where people think it’s okay to make racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. remarks or jokes. In some workplaces, this is how employees get down. Staff simply don’t think twice about cracking jokes that would have them getting their a**es kicked, if they made these “jokes” anywhere outside the workplace.

The problem with being in an environment like this (or being subjected to a rogue employee who behaves this way) is that some of us aren’t comfortable confronting or challenging someone who is being offensive. Even worse than remaining silent, some of us will actually laugh along with the racist because we are shocked, afraid to speak up or don‘t want to be looked at as a so-called race-baiter. The issue may be that we don’t know what else to do except laugh along with the person or we want to fit in with certain staff or the person making the so-called joke has authority over us. Regardless of the reason, there are sometimes factors that causes some of us to play along with a racist environment or situation.

If you are dealing with a person, who has no idea of self-censorship nor an understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace or if you work in a work environment that tolerates or encourages this behavior, you need to make sure that there is an understanding that you find the behavior to be offensive and unwelcome.

According to the EEOC, unwelcome conduct is conduct where the alleged victim did not solicit or incite the conduct and regarded it as undesirable or offensive. When the conduct involves mistreatment or is racially derogatory in nature, unwelcomeness usually is not an issue, even when the alleged harasser and victim are of the same race. Sometimes employers argue that the conduct in question was not unwelcome because it was playful banter, and the alleged victim was an active participant. The facts in such cases require careful scrutiny to determine whether the alleged victim was, in fact, a willing participant.

In the case of Vaughn v. Pool Offshore Co., 683 F.2d 922, 924-25 (5th Cir. 1982), the court stated:

[The] trial court did not err in finding for employer where plaintiff used racial slurs along with his co-employees, other employees were subjected to the same obnoxious treatment as plaintiff, his co-workers expressed amicable feelings towards him, and plaintiff testified at trial that he did not believe that pranks against him were racially motivated or that he was singled out for abusive treatment.

The EEOC language and this legal decision show that there is a clear danger in playing along with a racist, when it comes to unwelcome conduct. Even out of fear, you should not get into the habit of laughing at any unwelcome comments or jokes or presenting yourself in any way that would make you appear to be a participant in what you may later call unwelcome conduct and conduct that made you feel like you were subjected to a hostile and offensive work environment.

I have seen people engage in race-based “play” at work. It only takes one comment to go a little bit too far before this “play” spirals dangerously out of control and presents some serious conflict or a potential legal issue in the workplace.

You shouldn’t engage in this behavior at work because it is unprofessional, above all else. Secondarily, if you should happen to go too far with a comment, you could end up written up, suspended, fired, etc. Finally, you don’t want to end up appearing to be complicit in the creation of a racially-charged work environment.

Do not be a participant in race-based joking. If you find any behavior that is offensive or unwelcome, let the person know you are offended, do not want to hear a repeat of their comments, and then document everything in writing.

If the problem or environment continues, report it. Make sure to present your log of incidences and a list of any witnesses, who can confirm that “joking” in the workplace has crossed all lines of professionalism, is offensive, and unwelcome.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/race-color.html#N_123_


Post a Comment

<< Home

Toshiba Computers
Blogarama - The Blog Directory <