Hostile treatment in the workplace is always unpleasant. However, when that treatment stems from someone’s intolerance and is directed at matters unrelated to the job, it is particularly unfair. Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms, but none of them are acceptable. Employees should be judged on their merit, not matters such as race, gender, age or disabilities. In California, a firefighter has seen his racial discrimination suit reinstated by a federal court.
An Oakland firefighter, along with three others, originally filed a complaint alleging discrimination in 2008. They felt that they were ostracized and persecuted by their colleagues for their race. These four workers, who are African-American, purportedly found themselves put together on a shift and not permitted to swap. Their syrup allegedly was contaminated. Allegedly, after the complaint was made, one of the workers found honey on his bed and a dead bird under it and had his possessions stolen only to reappear attached to the ceiling months later.
The original judge in the case involving the lawsuit one of the firefighters brought in relation to these allegations felt that the behavior alleged would not constitute severe/pervasive racially motivated mistreatment and thus dismissed the case. However, a court of appeals disagreed and the case was reinstated. In this recent ruling, it was decided that it was possible that a jury could conclude that the African-American firefighters were being racially harassed by their colleagues. The series of events described in the lawsuit was deemed by the court of appeals to have the potential to be humiliating, threatening and liable to affect work performance.
Unfortunately, instances of racial harassment are not a great rarity. Far too many employees are subjected to a hostile work environment by their colleagues or employers. If you find yourself in such a position, you should be prepared to stand your ground, both for your own sake and that of others in your position. An attorney may be able to help you challenge the person responsible and pursue a fair resolution to the situation.
SF Gate, “Black Oakland firefighter’s discrimination suit reinstated,” Bob Egelko, May 2, 2014