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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Boss Comes Down On Us?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about race: My boss has been receiving complaints from a nasty co-worker regarding everyone in our office.

My boss has been receiving complaints from a nasty co-worker regarding everyone in our office. Rather than come down on the woman (who has already played the race card) she chose to come down on us. Most recently, she has told me that I MUST take a lunch break. I work 30 hours a week, 6 hours a day. She has told me that by law I have to take a break. I always thought that in PA you only get an unpaid lunch break if you work more than 6 hours a day.

Signed, Don’t Give Me A Break

Dear Don’t Give Me A Break:

The details of state labor regulations are not perfectly clear to me, even though they are detailed. Dan Kearney, one of our guest respondents, has this reply to your question: “According to Pennsylvania Wage & Hour Laws, Pennsylvania employers are not required to give breaks for employees 18 and over. If your employer allows breaks, and they last less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for the break. If your employer allows meal periods, the employer is not required to pay you for your meal period if you do not work during your meal period and it lasts more than 20 minutes.

“Your e-mail reveals more than a conflict over a lunch break. Rather your displeasure with you boss seems to spring from her failure to deal with a co-worker whom you say complains about everyone. You say your boss chose “to come down on us”. Then you stated that the way she “came down” was to tell you “MUST take a lunch break.”

“Either I am dense or there is something else bothering you, because that does not seem to be a harsh way of getting at you because of not dealing with a nasty co-worker. You can be annoyed about and angry with your boss and allow some beef to sour your attitude–to be an unhappy camper–or you can decide what you might do to build a good working relationship with your boss and co-workers, even with one who is nasty. How?

1. By not gossiping about what your boss is or is not doing. 2. By showing respect to all those with whom you work, even a “nasty” one.

2. By speaking privately with your boss about what you feel is not fair.

3. By making suggestions to your boss about ways to create a pleasant working climate.

4. By being a model employee–one who is responsible, cooperative, and cheerful.

5. By encouraging your boss to have weekly staff meetings that engage all employees in answering questions, such as: What have we been doing well this past week? What has frustrated and prevented us from working together as a team? What might we do this coming week to make each others’ work more effective and easier? Are there things we might work on to cut wasted time, effort, and money? How might we make the boss’ job easier?

Does this make sense to you? If so, what will you do? Crossing over troubled waters to a workplace we call WEGO, can begin with you.Dan Kearney, Guest Respondent & HR Manager and Bill Gorden The Workplace Doctors

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