Employment discrimination lawsuits often show how stupid behaviors can cost employers dearly; here are three cases showing why. Sometimes you wonder if employers just forgot what they learned in kindergarten, and other times after a new regulatory or professional opinion is published you’re left wondering when the first lawsuit is going to be filed. Here are three examples that in the end will cost employers time and money.
A young 21-year-old female ex-employee has filed suit against her former employer claiming age discrimination, among other items. It appears that the employer took the short path to the courthouse by allowing her male co-workers to refer to her as “the kid”, men were urinating in the office bathroom with the door open in her presence, a coworker telling her to bring a change of clothes and meet her at his house, asking her if “she prayed to Allah will he do anything for her?, And last but not least, “She’s so pretty, how can she be a Muslim?” Obviously the young woman complained and was fired due to the conflict she had with the co-worker. Apparently no one saw this one coming.
One would think that an insurance agency would be well aware of the risks of making derogatory remarks toward an employee based on the employee’s age. Countless blogs, human relations articles, newspaper accounts from respected writers and others have cautioned for years against use of such terms as “Old,” “Bag of Bones,” “Methuselah,” “Ancient one,” “Old Person,” “Old Dusty,” or using veiled references to age on employment evaluations, such as talking of older employees “lacking energy,” “unfit for new environment,” or “too old to speak on the phone,” (The EEOC would love to get in on this conversation.) The employer said to the only three employees over 40 the following: “Get it together you F***ing old people”, “Look at that old f***K,” and “You need to wear more makeup because of your wrinkles.” This flawed management style was compounded by firing one of the older employees when she complained. This employer is now discovering the high liability costs of indulging their age-ist attitudes in the workplace. Safer to save it for Thanksgiving get-togethers, where people more or less expect boorish behaviors and they can’t sue you for idiotic bigotry.
Duh # 3
When the American Medical Association recently decided to classify obesity is a disease I cynically commented that it was only a matter of time before someone sued their employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sadly, before the electronic ink was dry on my blog addressing this, a lawsuit was filed against America’s car Mart Inc. when the employer allegedly fired the employee because of his weight. Employee in his lawsuit claims that he is severely obese and that obesity is a physical impairment within the meaning of the ADA. Looking at the AMA’s new classification of obesity as a multi-metabolic and hormonal disease that requires treatment, I think it is only a matter of time until HR departments see their first requests for FMLA leave based on this new definition. This new definition is sure to lead HR departments into a land of confusion attempting to determine when an employee or qualified family member’s weight issues become a serious health condition. I hate to say it, but I told you so.
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