Standing ovation for Adam Jones at Fenway

Kristin Starnes Gray

Last Monday, the Orioles made headlines for more than just their 5-2 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.  Orioles player Adam Jones reported that Red Sox fans called him a racial slur several times and threw a bag of peanuts at him as he was entering the dugout. Police reportedly ejected 34 people, including the person who threw the bag of peanuts. The Red Sox, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred all condemned the fans’ behavior.  Fenway park at sunset

The following day, fans welcomed Jones with a standing ovation at Fenway Park before his first at-bat. Despite recent hostility that has arisen between the two teams after Manny Machado injured Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox starter Chris Sale stepped off the mound on Tuesday to allow more time for Jones’ ovation. In addition, Jones thanked two Boston players, Mookie Betts and David Price, for their supportive text messages. African-American players for other teams also have come forward about their experiences with being called racial slurs by fans during games.

While we typically think of harassment in the workplace as occurring between two employees, Jones’ experience is an example of how important it is to be vigilant about the reprehensible behavior of non-employees. Title VII  of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on various protected categories, including race.  As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has explained, “Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances . . . . The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee . . . . The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees and non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.”

Some important steps employers can take to prevent harassment in the workplace include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies with complaint procedures;
  • Communicating those policies and procedures to all employees;
  • Training supervisors on what to do when an employee complains; and
  • Taking prompt and appropriate corrective action to address employee concerns.

In the meantime, let us take to heart these two teams’ classy showing of solidarity and mutual respect. Let this be an example to us of, not only good sportsmanship, but also the importance of treating each other with dignity and following the Golden Rule.

NASCAR’s racing to defend race discrimination lawsuit—is your company ready?

September 26, 2016 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Earlier this week, news broke that NASCAR is being sued for alleged racial discrimination. NASCAR insists the case has no merit, but only time will tell the outcome. When the rubber meets the road, will your business be ready to defend against a race discrimination lawsuit? Fortunately, there are steps every business can take to protect itself.  Fans Fly NASCAR Flags While Camping Outside Race Track

Policies and Training

Before an employee gets the green flag to file a race discrimination lawsuit, he or she must go through an administrative process with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or its counterpart on the state level by filing a charge of discrimination. As part of its investigation, the first thing the agency will ask the employer to provide is a copy of its employment policies and procedures. To avoid crashing into the wall on your first lap, your best defense against discrimination claims is to implement a strong EEO policy. You must also train your crew chiefs and pit crew on the policy’s contents, holding them accountable for violations, and keep up the pace with current law by regularly reviewing and updating your policies.

In addition to a general EEO policy that prohibits discrimination, your company should adopt a separate, more involved anti-harassment policy. According to the EEOC, the policy should include:

• A clear explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples;
• Clear assurance that employees who make complaints or provide information related to complaints will be protected against retaliation;
• A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint;
• Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;
• A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and
• Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

Measuring Job Performance

Of course, if you want to kick your defense of an employment discrimination lawsuit into high gear and stay on track, thorough documentation is essential. Often, one of the best ways employers can throw a wrench into allegations of racial bias is to evaluate employees’ job performance on a regular basis. In doing so, employers should make sure that performance appraisals are accurate and consistent (i.e., that other employees with comparable job performances receive comparable ratings, and that appraisals are neither artificially low nor artificially high due to the supervisor’s bias). Whenever possible, employers should steer clear of subjective employment decisions based on managers’ personal stereotypes or hidden biases and rely instead on the use of neutral and objective criteria to evaluate job performance.

Hiring and Promotion

To gain traction and prevent allegations of race discrimination from spinning out of control, employers should be proactive and keep EEO principles in mind when recruiting, hiring, and promoting employees. That means adopting practices designed to widen and diversify the pool of job candidates, including openings in upper level management.

In recent years, the EEOC’s enforcement efforts have gone into overdrive, targeting overly broad hiring criteria and the use of criminal background checks that disproportionately disadvantage certain minority or racial groups. To keep running on all cylinders, you should ensure your company’s hiring standards are valid predictors of successful job performance and justified by business necessity. For example, if educational requirements disproportionately exclude certain minority applicants, they may be illegal unless they are considered important for job performance or business needs.  Sure, your driver may need a valid license and substantial racing experience to pre-qualify for a race, but does that member of your pit crew who changes tires really need a college degree in mechanical engineering?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your business may be the target of a racial discrimination lawsuit. But, hopefully, if you follow these steps, you’ll soon be racing toward the checkered flag and cruising down victory lane.

#Fired: Post a tweet, lose your job

August 23, 2016 - by: Katie O'Shea 0 COMMENTS
Katie O'Shea

Many people enjoy spouting off what they view as 140-character tidbits of wisdom on the social media platform Twitter. But recently several individuals have found themselves in trouble with their employers (read: former employers) for their tweets or other social media posts.  Tweet

One recent example was a loan officer from Michigan who crafted a racist tweet, not worth repeating here, following First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Twitter users saw the tweet and tracked down the home loan company the woman worked for. The result was a flood of tweets directed to the company’s Twitter profile calling their attention to the tweet and asking if the employee’s views represented the company’s values.

One individual tweeted to the company, “you can’t tell me someone who holds this view on the @FLOTUS is not abusing her powers on other minorities.” Others went straight to the point and asked the company, “Will you continue to employ someone who is racist?”

The company saw the tweets and immediately took action by issuing a statement in response on Twitter. The company denounced the woman’s reprehensible comments and stated she was no longer employed with the company. The company emphasized that they do not condone such comments, which were made on the employee’s personal account.

Similarly, a national bank employee lost her job earlier this summer after a Facebook rant filled with racist remarks. The employee’s profile listed that she was an employee of the bank, and social media users immediately began sending the bank thousands of comments about the post. The bank investigated the post and terminated the employee, issuing a statement that they were aware of the reprehensible post on Facebook and the employee had been terminated. In this instance, many customers even threatened to close their accounts with the bank.

The public appeared particularly attuned to this issue given that in 2013 the bank was ordered to pay more than 1,000 African American job applicants over $2 million in back wages and interest after a judge found one of the company’s offices had discriminated against them based on their race.

Even celebrities like Blake Shelton, a judge on the popular singing competition show The Voice, have been called out by the Twitter masses for their tweets. Just last week, the country singer tweeted what some have dubbed a “non-apology” for past racist and homophobic tweets. Some of the tweets in question stem as far back as 2008, proving once again that the Internet never forgets.

With social media, it’s possible for a tweet or post to go viral immediately, and companies must be attuned to their social mentions and quickly take action if problematic posts surface. As with the bank case, delaying an investigation and taking action could cost a company customers and create bad PR.

If a company is considering taking action against an employee for a problematic post on social media, HR should be sure to immediately save or print a copy of the post in question in case the employee attempts to delete it. Employers also should keep in mind that some states might limit an employer’s ability to investigate social media or take action against an applicant or employee based on off-duty conduct.

Of course, employers also must be cognizant of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in analyzing employees’ social media posts. In recent cases, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that certain employee posts, and even rants, were protected activity under the NLRA because they pertained to concerted activity and union activity. The NLRB has found that employers violated the NLRA by terminating employees for participation in protected conduct, and has awarded back pay.

In light of these recent tweets, it’s important for employers to evaluate their social media policies and consider how they might respond to an employee who makes a racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate remark on a personal social media page. Employers should be extremely careful when disciplining employees over social media posts, however, especially if the posts pertain to conditions of employment. Employers considering disciplinary action or termination based on an employee’s social media post should act swiftly but consult with counsel beforehand.

Another Period: trial by idiot

Kristin Starnes Gray

The sophomore season of Another Period is now in full swing with last night’s episode having quite a bit of fun with the judiciary. If you haven’t already caught this gem of a comedy, it is an American period sitcom spoofing both reality shows and Downton Abbey. The show follows the outrageous lives of the Bellacourts, the first family of Newport, Rhode Island, and their household staff at the turn of the 20th century. With the first season covering issues such as drug addiction, mental illness, incest, sexual harassment, and abortion, we can expect the second season to continue to merrily cross the line into the taboo.   Uncertain judge

Last night’s episode was no exception, as the groundskeeper (Hamish, played by Brett Gelman) stands trial for the murder of a local gossip columnist with a nasty habit of exposing some of the Bellacourts’ dark family secrets in the Newport Looky-Loo newspaper. Despite the fact that Hamish is innocent (at least of this particular crime), his chances look grim with the fantastically unqualified Lord Frederick Bellacourt (played by Jason Ritter) presiding over the trial. His chances are not helped by the facts that Lillian Bellacourt (played by show co-creator Natasha Leggero) is more concerned with fame than the truth of her upcoming testimony, and Beatrice Bellacourt (played by show co-creator Riki Lindhome) is hoping for a death sentence for her own entertainment.

For his part, Ritter’s Lord Bellacourt gave us some excellent pointers on what a judge should not do during a trial, such as:

  1.  Proclaim himself “King of the Lawyers!”
  2. Have his twin sister (and secret lover) take over as judge while he goes “no. 1.”
  3. Return from a bathroom break to loudly proclaim from the bench, “I went no. 1 but while sitting down, just in case.”
  4. Allow an inebriated Mark Twain to represent the defendant in a capital murder case.
  5. Allow Mark Twain to nap during the trial.
  6. Entertain Mark Twain’s suggestion that he testify against his own client.
  7. Allow his father to interrupt the defendant’s testimony to provide a ridiculous alibi.
  8. Attempt to verify a defendant’s obviously made-up alibi by asking a female spectator to lift her skirts in the middle of the courtroom.
  9. Give the spectators (and me) nightmares about the coastline of New Hampshire.
  10. Accept a clearly unintentional and false confession from a minority spectator, because he’s ready to put down the gavel and flirt with his twin sister.

In short, never give a Bellacourt (especially Frederick, who enjoys “lawn canoeing” in his spare time) any level of power or responsibility.  For my fellow Another Period fans, use the comments section below to tell us your favorite part of last night’s episode.

Chris Rock’s #OscarsSoWhite monologue: Don’t try this at work

February 29, 2016 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

The glitz, glamour, and celebratory nature of last night’s Academy Awards were dimmed by the ongoing controversy about the total lack of racial diversity among Oscar contenders for the last two years. In response, Chris Rock delivered a scathing monologue criticizing the Gold OscarAcademy and its members, the large majority of whom are white and male. As the audience laughed and squirmed in their seats, Rock repeatedly hammered the Hollywood establishment, using humor as a platform to express the collective outrage of the #OscarsSoWhite protest movement.

Of course, exploiting sensitive subjects like race, religion, gender, and age are all in a day’s work for professional comedians like Rock. They enjoy the unfettered privilege of offending the hell out of absolutely everyone so long as it gets a laugh. For the rest of us, however, such divisive humor (even when it is targeted at white males) has no place at work and should be avoided at all costs.

In its “Best Practices and Tips to Employees” for preventing discrimination in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises employees to steer clear of race-based or culturally offensive humor or pranks. Employers should likewise train their employees (especially managers and supervisors) to leave their stand-up routines at home. Discrimination is no laughing matter, and humor is notoriously subjective. Even well-meaning comments meant to be supportive of a particular racial group or demographic may be interpreted as stereotypical or discriminatory by someone else, so it is wise to eschew such potentially explosive discussions altogether.

Although training your employees on what type of workplace conduct is off-limits is a great first step in preventing discrimination claims, even the most conscientious employer cannot completely prevent employees from discussing controversial topics around the water cooler. So if you observe such chatter taking place, or if someone complains, be pro-active and address the situation head-on to prevent a recurrence. In addition, make sure every employee at your business understands the consequences for initiating, participating in, or condoning discriminatory behavior or harassment. Lastly, pass along this tip from the EEOC: “When in doubt, leave it outside the workplace.”

 

Don’t matter if you’re black or white

February 16, 2016 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Somewhere between outrage, bewilderment, and comedy falls the news that a U.K. production company has cast very very very white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, a short film about a rumored post-9/11 road trip involving Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Marlon Brando.  hip hop funk dancer dancing man

There has been much criticism of this particular casting decision, especially against the backdrop of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. But what about any black actors who believe the casting of a white actor is discriminatory? Turns out they probably don’t have a case.

A few years ago, black applicants for ABC’s The Bachelor sued the network and the show for race discrimination. They alleged the show overwhelmingly preferred white contestants over blacks. A federal district court dismissed their action and made some interesting points. The court pointed out that the plaintiffs’ theory would call into question how certain networks target an audience (Ovation, Telemundo, BET) as well as the demographic makeup of the casts of various shows (The Shahs of Beverly Hills, The Cosby Show).

The money money quote from that decision is, “To the extent that these networks and programs discriminated and discriminate in their casting choices, would they not be subject to civil liability under prevailing state and/or federal antidiscrimination statutes, but for the First Amendment? There are other examples: Would applying anti-discrimination laws require a playwright to consider white actors to play Othello, black actors to play Macbeth, or a male to play Lady Macbeth? For that matter, could a dramatist face civil liability for staging an all-female version of Romeo & Juliet?”

Fair points.  The only thing keeping 2 Broke Girls from becoming The Golden Girls is freedom from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

What #OscarsSoWhite teaches us about disparate impact

January 25, 2016 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

I have to admit that I’m just not a big fan of awards shows, and that includes the Academy Awards. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies. But I find awards shows dull and way, way too long. If something extremely funny happens, or someone makes an incredibly touching or socially impactful speech, I can frankly watch it the next morning on the Internet.  OscarSoWhite

Yet, despite my lack of interest in awards shows, it’s hard to ignore the controversy surrounding the most recent Academy Award nominations announced a couple weeks ago. For the second year in a row, all 20 contenders in the acting categories are Caucasian. Last year, this resulted in the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which not surprisingly has been resurrected again this year. There was of course immediate backlash to the nominations. Numerous individualsboth white and of colordecried the lack of diversity in not only the nominations, but in the industry itself. Certain celebrities made public their intention to boycott the awards. It has become somewhat of a social media frenzy as everyone has chimed in with their opinion.

Some corners place the blame squarely on the Academy, for its own lack of diversity in its membership, and therefore the lack of nominations for people of color. Others place the blame on the industry itself, and that the lack of diversity at the top of studios and other positions of power results in a dearth of movies with diverse casts and diverse issues being produced.  Most believe it’s a combination of the two as well as other preconceived notions and stereotypes about what the general public will pay to see.

Not being a Hollywood insider myself, I can’t definitively provide an answer as to the root of the issue. But I can certainly understand the concept of stereotypes and preconceived notions affecting a studio’s judgment as to who should play a certain role. As an Asian-American, I’ve unfortunately become accustomed to the fact that when I see an Asian actor prominently featured in a domestically produced film, he or she will most likely be good at martial arts, or be some villain involved in an dangerous Asian gang, or both if possible. Otherwise, it will be a minor role as an asexual academic or scientist. That’s why it’s refreshing for someone like me to watch a character like Glenn from The Walking Dead.

As in the comics the show is based on, Glenn is Asian and sort of just a normal guy, which I can relate to. Specifically, Glenn is Korean (as am I), he doesn’t know martial arts (I don’t either), he seems smart but was  just a regular Joe delivering pizzas before the zombie apocalypse (I love pizza), he’s got a wife/fiancé [he proposed but the show hasn’t shown any wedding] and they’re having a kid together (I have a wife and kids), and he’s a lead role in one of the most watched shows on TV (I dream about being this sometimes). The fact that the comics, and then the show, recognized that this prominent character could be portrayed by someone Asian, despite the fact that the character wasn’t written with stereotypical Asian characteristics, is rather refreshing to someone like me. So I can understand the frustration that other minorities have regarding the lack of diversity in movies today.

In response to the criticism, the Academy announced it would be taking additional and affirmative measures to increase the diversity in its membership. President of the Academy Cheryl Isaacs, who is African-American, announced a variety of new measures that they anticipate will double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020. President Isaacs stated in her announcement that “the Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.”

These are words that every employer should keep in mind. In other words, be proactive. Anyone who is reading this can agreewhether or not you believe there were illicit motivations that resulted in the nominations, there is no dispute that 40 acting nominations over two years to all Caucasian individuals is going to cause some questions about whether diversity is being represented.

For employers, this is known as disparate impact. Employers can be liable for discrimination against employees on theories of disparate impact or disparate treatment. We all know what disparate treatment is– the intentional, or proven intentional, discriminatory treatment of an employee. Disparate impact, on the other hand, refers to policies, practices, rules, or other systems that appear to be neutral but result in a disproportionate impact on protected groups. Simply put, disparate impact is a way to demonstrate employment discrimination based on the impact of an employment policy or practice rather than the intent behind it.

If the Academy were an employer and the actors in every film produced were its employees, there would be a sufficient basis to contend that the nomination process, policy, and procedure had a disproportionate impact on protected groups, evidenced by the fact that all 40 positions were filled by Caucasian employees. This isn’t to say that the Academy would be automatically liable, but this fact would be enough to bring such a claim, thereby requiring investigation and discovery into all aspects of the process, an expensive litigation to defend even if ultimately successful.

As a result, employers should not only regularly review their policies and procedures but also conduct an analysis as to whether there are any disparate impacts in their workforce, whether it be hiring, termination, promotion, pay rates, or any other aspect of an employee’s employment. Obviously, the size of the employer’s operation will dictate how often, or how widespread, such an analysis needs to be. By acting proactively, the employer can determine whether there are any flaws in their own procedures and, if there are issues, make the appropriate changes before any significant problems arise.

Bloodline: We did a bad thing

December 11, 2015 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

“We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” This is the tagline for the Netflix original thriller-drama Bloodline. If you haven’t seen it, run to add it to your watch list immediately. The show takes us into the lives of the Rayburn family, owners of a picturesque beachside hotel in the Florida Keys. Despite the gorgeous backdrop, this family is plagued by its dark and violent past. Pay attention to the opening sequence because a storm is certainly coming.  Woman Mugshot

When the oldest son, Danny, returns home after years away, the family reunion is anything but happy. Need proof? We know from the very start that Danny will end up dead by the hands of one (or more) of his siblings, but it will take the rest of the first season to unravel who kills him, how, and why.

During Danny’s descent into darkness (all he wanted to do was to give his toast at the anniversary party, right?), he and his family members commit any number of sins, many of which could destroy the family, not to mention the family business. To give but one example, Danny uses his criminal connections to threaten a witness and save one of his co-conspirators, Carlos, from some jail time after a fight. Danny ends up hiring Carlos to work at his family’s hotel, a cover for their actual moneymaking plan, despite (or, indeed, because of) Carlos’ criminal history and his recent run-in with the law.

This type of scenario is probably not what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had in mind when it released its enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII prohibits employers from treating individuals differently based on those protected statuses, but it also prohibits employers from applying a facially neutral policy that has a disparate impact on individuals in a particular protected group.

The EEOC has warned that even when employers apply criminal record exclusions uniformly, the exclusions may still operate to disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude people of a particular race or national origin. In short, employers must show that such exclusions are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC has called for a fact-based analysis whereby employers should consider (1) the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, (2) the time that has passed since the offense, conduct, and/or completion of the sentence, and (3) the nature of the job sought or held.

Danny, however, isn’t your typical employer. For his purposes, a criminal history is a virtue and an opportunity for exploitation. After all, how do you pay back your boss for having the prosecution’s star witness frightened out of testifying against you at your upcoming trial? Nothing good, I can tell you, but it certainly makes for an entertaining show. So tell us your thoughts in the comments section as well as your predictions for Season Two in the New Year.

Jenner, Dolezal, and the transformative debate

June 22, 2015 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

The names Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal have been inexorably intertwined over the last couple weeks by the mainstream media and social pundits, including a debate as to whether these two individuals’ circumstances should even be intertwined because they represent entirely different discussions regarding social justice and identity. Identity Crisis

As most know, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, came out publicly as transgender and her transition has been a fairly high-profile affair. Other than negative reactions from a select faction of people, Jenner has received mainly overwhelming support. Not so for Dolezal, a former head of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter when it was recently revealed she is actually Caucasian but claims to identify as black. Dolezal has received criticism from all-comers regardless of race, age, or political or social affiliation.

Certain anti-LGBT proponents have used the word “transracial” to conflate the situations between Dolezal and Jenner and create a comparison between the two. To some, to conflate the two is to deny scientific evidence that there is a biological origin for transgender identities and minimize the legitimacy of transgender issues. In addition, the true transracial community has responded that the term transracial is actually meant for adoptees raised in a family of a different race, not individuals who may identify as a race other than that given at birth. Therefore, to call Dolezal transracial is unfair to those who are truly transracial and openly addressing various social constructs in their lives as a result of this upbringing.

Others believe that Dolezal’s identification as black is offensive to African-Americans as a whole. As a minority myself, I can certainly understand that viewpoint. And for most people, one of the biggest issues with Dolezal is deception: the belief that she purposefully concealed her heritage and misrepresented various aspects of her life.

But what if someone was up-front about addressing issues with respect to their own racial identity and the reasons for them? Is this something that should summarily be dismissed as ridiculous or is there further social commentary and discussion to be had? I admit I don’t necessarily know the answer. What I do know is that every social issue deserves some sort of debate, so that every aspect of the argument can be understood from all angles.

Take transgender rights as an example. Not long ago, the concept of an individual identifying with a different sex was also misunderstood and summarily dismissed. Look around now. The “T” in LGBT is now just as much part of the conversation as the rights of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Just last week, Entertainment Weekly had an LGBT issue, with the cover title of “America’s Transformation,” and which discussed the prevalence and importance of transgender characters and issues in mainstream pop culture.

If social change is slow, then legal reform is downright glacial. Only in recent history have laws begun to protect claims by transgender individuals. In 2012, the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) decision in Macy v. Dep’t of Justice represented the agency’s position that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination on the basis of sex. Subsequent EEOC decisions have echoed this sentiment, and the EEOC’s field memo issued in February 2015 reiterated that workers are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from employment discrimination based on gender identity, as well as sexual orientation. In addition, a number of state laws explicitly provide that their applicable discrimination statutes also cover discrimination against transgender individuals.

So is racial identity also deserving of debate? Or is it simply an incomprehensible concept? Whatever the answer is, there is no question that the circumstances surrounding Dolezal’s being revealed as Caucasian and the circumstances surrounding her purported deception probably do not make a good first impression for those delving into this topic for the first time. From a legal perspective, it is difficult to fathom how such a construct could be implemented, even if it were socially accepted. Frankly, one of the first prerequisites to a race discrimination claim is that you must be a member of that protected classhow would that square with an individual who is not a member of the protected class who identifies as a member of a protected class? Or even vice versa?

If there is good news, at least from an employer’s perspective, it’s that racial identity will have no bearing on the law anytime soon, if at all. For the time being, Dolezal’s situation, and the question of racial identity itself, is strictly for social debate, and that debate will likely create even more opinions on this issue in the coming weeks and months.

But remember, if you hear the winds of change blowing on racial identity or any other type of social issue, just be aware that legal change may be far behind, but it will catch up eventually.

The Abominable Boss Man

October 31, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In honor of Halloween, this post will address some of the many potential workplace issues in the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.  If you’ve been living under a rock and have managed to not see this film (or its recent sequel), here’s a quick recap. A city called Monstropolis is inhabited by monsters and is powered by the screams of children in the human world. shutterstock_98138216At Monsters, Inc., employees (or “Scarers”) have the job of scaring human children and collecting their screams to power the city. The company, however, is facing a serious dilemma and potential energy crisis, as human children are become harder to frighten. Through a series of amusing misadventures, the top Scarer, Sulley, and his best friend, Mike, end up caring for a little girl they dub “Boo.”

In trying to return Boo safely to the human world, Mike and Sulley discover that one of the Scarers, Randall, plans to kidnap children (particularly Boo) and use a torture machine on company property to extract their screams. Randall tries to use the torture machine on Mike, but Sulley saves the day. Sulley reports Randall and his torture device to the company chairman, who responds by promptly exiling Mike and Sulley to the Himalayas. I won’t spoil the ending for the two or three of you who have not yet seen the movie.

Thankfully, in the human world, your boss can’t respond to a workplace complaint by  shipping you off to the Abominable Snowman (though this banished yeti happens to be much friendlier than expected). Indeed, a number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees for reporting certain workplace issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is intended to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions . . . .” OSHA contains a nondiscrimination provision, which prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee filed a safety or health complaint or otherwise engaged in protected activity under the Act.

The monster equivalent of OSHA might have saved Mike and Sulley a trip to the Himalayas, but then it would have been a rather short movie. Plus, the Abominable Snowman would still be sorting mail at Monsters, Inc., rather than  serving up some delicious snow cones. Don’t worry–the yellow ones are lemon-flavored. Happy Halloween!

 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »