Civility and respect in the workplace are generally good practices. They should be expected, required and supported for and of all employees and managers. Don't buy it? A recent case demonstrates that if you don't believe in maintaining workplace civility for civility's sake, then how about for reducing your legal liability?
An employee claims that after he filed a charge of disability discrimination against his employer he was retaliated against. The employee said his supervisor stopped saying good morning to him; spoke to him without a "warm welcome in his voice"; spoke to him indirectly giving written work assignments to a coworker to give to him (remind anyone of 3rd grade?!); and more. While these actions may be uncivil, childish, unkind and unprofessional do they rise to the level of unlawful retaliation?
The US District Court for the Southern District of New York found they could. "
Although the Court agrees that it is a close question, whether [the supervisors] different and
arguably hostile treatment of [the employee] would 'dissuade a reasonable worker from making or
supporting a charge of discrimination' is a genuine issue of disputed fact that must be resolved at
rational juror could find that [the] negative treatment of [the employee] after he filed
the complaint could dissuade a reasonable worker from complaining of
- Be sure you have read the EEOC's August 25, 2016 Enforcement Guidance on Workplace Retaliation. Retaliation has been the #1 basis of all charges filed with the EEOC for the last seven consecutive years!
- Train Managers on pitfalls to avoid even the appearance of retaliation. The above guidance suggests, "managers and supervisors alleged to have engaged in discrimination should be provided with guidance on how to handle any personal feelings about the allegations when carrying out management duties or interacting in the workplace."
- Workplace civility is a business need-to-have, not just a warm fuzzy want-to-have. Incivility often gives rise to at least a perception of a difference in treatment. And when an adult is treated differently we try to understand why. In that endeavor, we may attach a meaning based on protected status such as age, race, sex, disability or ... retaliation.