Even a careless remark by a supervisor or employee can create huge discrimination lawsuits.
In one case, a woman was awarded back pay, compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages (later reduced to $200,000) because she was denied maternity leave because her supervisor said she had to be terminated because there was no way that the manager could have a pregnant woman in the office as there was a "business to run." Those comments apparently held great sway with the court. Arismendez v. Nightingale Home Healthcare Inc.
In another case, an employee was awarded nearly $2 million in damages for age discrimintation. The jury relied on remarks made by the President of the business, who said he wanted "race horses" not "plow horses" and told the plaintiff that he was out of the old school of selling. Moreover, the President announced at a sales meeting that he was concerned about the significant graying of the sales force." Palasota v. Haggar Clothing Co.
Anything you say or put in an e-mail can be held against you - and worse, anything your managers say or put in writing can be held against you as well.
And let's face it - the comments in both these cases are founded in sheer stupidity.
The solution is management training. It's estimated that 75% of all managers and supervisors - especially in smaller businesses, have no formal training in management - the 'do's and don'ts'.
Don't let an untrained supervisor endanger your business.
Thanks to Phelps Dunbar LLP for this article.