My Boss Won’t Use My Name

Question:  I work for family owned business. The owner and his two sons are white. One employee is White, one is Hispanic and I am Black. My boss addresses me as “ helper”, never by my name. I’ve been there a year. I’m feeling discriminated against. What should I do?

Response: I’m not clear on how someone could avoid calling someone by their first or last name for a full year! Does he say, “Hi, Helper, how was your weekend?” Or, “Bill, why don’t you and Helper work on this?” That would seem very odd. Or, does he just introduce you as a helper in the company? Or, put you on the organizational chart as “Helper” instead of putting your name? I would like to know more about that!

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Accused Boss of Creating a Hostile Environment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about what to do after a negative investigation:

I worked for a Gov Agency for 26 years and worked my way up to County Director over the largest County in the state. We have approx. over 2000 cases to check at the end of the month to ensure timeliness on our cases. My team checks behind the supervisors to ensure they had not missed a case. On 4-30-19 I asked my Supervisor III where she was on checking end on the month report and I was told she hasn’t started checking hers. read more

Fired for a Racist Remark

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a racist remark:

I was accused of making a racist remark to someone at work. When this person was called in to discuss it, he kept saying that I made a racist remark since he was Hispanic. When he was told my last name, he immediately changed his story and said that I was just disrespecting him. I was told this by HR as they were terminating me. I was never told when this occurred, where this occurred or who made the complaint against. They just terminated me without ever letting me speak to anyone about this. While both my supervisor and my boss assured me that they did not believe I had made a racist remark, I was concerned that there were other people at work who might believe I had done so. What should I do? Thank you very much.

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Is Being an Only English Speaking Office Manager in a Farsi-Speaking Start-Up Discrimination?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being an only English speaking Office Manager/Controller:

I am the Office Manager/Controller/a little bit of everything position in a small startup company in California. There are 4 individuals in the office, The CEO/Founder, Production Manager, Sales Manager and myself. There are also about 10-15 outside sales reps., but the issue I am having doesn’t concern them at all. In the office, each of us has about the same level of responsibility, (other then CEO obviously) and work on 75% of the projects together. However, I am the only female, and the only, white, American born, English-only speaking individual out of us 4. The CEO/Founder, and my two co-workers, are Persian and speak Farsi. They speak Farsi in the office almost all of the time, for business, personal, jokes, lunch, everything. I have asked on MULTIPLE occasions that we speak English for work related things as I do not speak Farsi and am getting left out of conversations.

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Manager Mention of My National Origin Multiple Times Caused Me To Leave

Question about discrimination due to national origin:

 I work in LA and started this position in November. There were some spats at work between my manager, me and my admin. My admin had brought up my national origin multiple times about which I complained to my manager without any result. Then, my admin was laid off and my manager gave me work including some that were not my responsibility. I messaged my manager that there was some tasks I couldn’t allocate my time towards, yet I continued doing it for 3 months.

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What If No Action is Being Taken About my Discrimination Complaint?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a discrimination and retaliation complaint

=&0=&I reported a discrimination and retaliation issue to a manager at our corporate office. He was appalled. He then reported it to HR in his office because HR in my office did nothing. Corporate HR then called me to discuss my issue. The HR manager who called me said at the end of our call “will you give me time to fix this?” I said yes. That was 5 weeks ago. How much time should I give her? I emailed her 3 days ago with more info and to follow up, but she has not responded at all.

I have an attorney, but was going to give the company a chance to handle the situation before my attorney starts sending letters, but it seems nothing is happening.

Response:
I can imagine your feelings of frustration, as you have waited for over a month to hear back from the corporate HR manager. What you do—and when you do it—will depend on at least two factors. Consider the following, as you think about your next steps.

1.) Did you and the HR manager come to an agreement about what would “fix” the situation? For example, if the situation involves your own manager and some aspect of your work or career opportunities, did you and the HR manager discuss what you need from the company, to feel that the situation has been remedied and the damage done to you has been repaired?  The HR manager doesn’t have the authority to promise corporate responses, but she can be a catalyst for action, based on your complaint.

If you and the HR manager didn’t discuss what it would take to make things right, the HR manager may settle for something much less than you anticipated. For example, you might expect you will have a negative personnel action reversed and be given a chance to apply for a coveted position. However, the HR manager may think that isn’t likely to happen, so she settles for sending out an EEO reminder to managers and developing an EEO presentation for the next management meeting. She may think she has already fixed the situation to the best of her ability and there is nothing more to be done.

Your attorney has probably discussed this with you already: Develop a statement you can easily write or say, about what you want to have happen as a result of your complaint or any civil action your attorney might take. In that way, you have established what “fixing” the problem involves and you can more easily decide whether the HR manager has fulfilled your expectations. What you say you want as a remedy may, in reality, just be a starting point for negotiations. However, by now the HR manager could have told you something about whether your expectations were going to be fulfilled or if you should lower your expectations.

If you and the HR manager came to an agreement about what would remedy the situation but nothing has happened in five weeks (and she has not talked to you about it, even with the recent emails) you could certainly justify moving forward through your attorney. Five weeks is plenty long enough to start an investigation and take some immediate remedial actions to improve your situation.

2.) The second factor to consider, if the cost of involving your attorney. Unless your attorney is providing services for free or on a contingency basis, every phone call and letter is expensive. If you think you can wait, it might be wise to send another email, this one with a deadline. For example:

“I’ve waited since May 10th but haven’t seen any changes or had any communication about my complaints, nor did I get response to the email I sent three days ago. When you asked me to give you time to fix this discriminatory and retaliatory situation, I said yes. However, if I don’t hear something definitive about it by June 20th, I will turn the matter over to my attorney and further communications will be done through him. I hope ABC Corporation cares enough about its employees and its policies that they will want to remedy this situation because they know it’s the right thing to do, not because they are required to do it. Please let me know if actions have been taken about which I’m not aware. Also, let me know when you think I can expect to hear the final resolution of this matter.”

If that doesn’t get a response and you don’t want to wait any longer, you’ll know you have no choice but to involve your attorney. Just make sure the result you are seeking is worth the expense of an attorney and the threat of a civil lawsuit.

One thing to keep in mind about all of this is that even though the first manager you talked to said he was appalled and even though the corporate HR manager acted concerned as well, it may be that someone at a higher level decided there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing to take action in your favor. Or, it may be that there are a lot of conversations about trying to lessen the liability for the company. Or, the manager who you think is the source of the original problems is being given time to put together a good counter argument.

One thing is certain: If you believe you were discriminated against and suffered retaliation for complaining, and if your company is dragging its feet about responding to you, your only reasonable option is to get your facts and witnesses together and get your attorney to take the action needed to make things right for you and for others who may be in your same situation.

Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know how it works out for you.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Follow-up: 

I appreciate your detailed response and opinion.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said they may be having in depth talks regarding the company’s liability and trying to lessen it. I have proof of clear discrimination. Paper-trail proof. I also have proof of a lie my boss fabricated that included my name. He’s been on a witch hunt ever since I reported the discrimination. It’s seriously been one witch hunt after another. I’ve never been written up, but my boss has tried to once. Corporate HR got involved and put a stop to it though.

I know that for a fact because my innocence relied on a manager witnessing it and he was called to verify his story- which was the same as my story. He called me to tell me everything.

With that being said, I think corporate HR is having an “What do we do?” moment. My boss has notoriously been protected by his boss.

As for HR discussions about remedies, we have not discussed that thoroughly yet. I told her that my boss should be terminated if he lied (which we know he did). I also stated that I know I have been a victim of pay disparity which violates the federal Equal Pay Act, as well as retaliation. Retaliation alone justifies termination. She did not give me any potential remedies though.

******

Also, I want to add that at least 6 other women over the past 5 years have also experienced the discrimination, and at least 3 of them are willing to sue also.

Response:

Thank you for the additional information. I’ll stay in contact with you.

Tina Rowe

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Losing my Mind Because of Punjabi Coworkers

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworkers speaking their native language and feeling excluded because of only knowing English:

Please clear this up for me before I lose my mind!!! I was hired 3 years ago by a woman who is fluent in both English & Punjabi. She herself is an ” Americanized Punjabi.” Anyway, when I was hired, there were 2 other Punjabi/English speakers, a Spanish/English speaker & myself English speaking only. Never did I feel out of place or left out of conversations. Everyone spoke English & all was good. Until now. This past year, the Spanish/English speakers have left & has been replaced with 2 Punjabi/ English speakers & now ALL day 6 days a week EVERYTHING EVERY WORD EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY IS PUNJABI PUNJABI PUNJABI! read more

Harassed in My Last Job and in My New

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a persistent harassment by coworkers:

I have a harassment issue of sorts that I am unclear what to do about. I worked for a large corporation and moved up quickly. Much to the dismay of others. I was very vocal about issues we faced and my boss hated that. It wasn’t until my boss was promoted that the onslaught began. Once he was placed two levels above me, each of my coworkers began to harass me. Some things I did not find out about until later but things were put in my food, things were sent to me that were blatantly racist and then spread around the office as if I sent them etc…

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Blackballed

I’m in an at-will state, and as a non-permanent employee, I was terminated with no reason (after months of bullying and harassment). Then I had an interview schedule in another section (different boss, different clients), and HR called to rescind the interview. No reason. No one will talk to me. I’m over 68 years old. Any recourse? read more

Is Asking An Age Question On An Application Discriminatory?

Question
A Company just moved to my city and there were many news articles about the 2000 well-paying jobs being added to the region. I applied online and went through the steps inputting information. When I got to the 3rd or 4th step, I was asked if I was over 19 and under 40. You could not go on without answering this question. I am over 40 and never received any response. I believe this is illegal and discriminates on the basis of age. How can a company blatantly discriminate like this? I did have all the qualifications for the position I applied for.

Response
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, says that employers of 20 or more cannot discriminate in hiring and promotions solely based on age. The loophole for many businesses is that they can say they did not use age information to discriminate, merely to be more aware of the applicant’s potential experiences.

Here is what the ADEA says:

The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA.

If you want to pursue this matter, you may want to contact an EEOC office and give them the information and get an opinion about whether or not the requirement is legal. Your state Department of Labor may also have requirements about employment applications.

I agree with you that it sounds very much like those who are above and below the age range mentioned will not be selected, based on a pretext. That may not be the case, but it creates distrust.

Best wishes to you with this matter. If you find out something definitive, please let us know so we can share it when we are asked about something similar in the future.

Tina Rowe
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