Dear David: Dealing with Insensitive Comments

An employee allegedly made a racially insensitive comment in the presence of a coworker. How should we respond?

You need to investigate the matter. A racially insensitive comment could be considered harassment — unwelcome behavior that’s based on a protected class such as race. Harassment becomes unlawful if putting up with it is a condition of continued employment or if the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

If you find evidence that harassment or any policy violations occurred, you should follow up with the offending employee. Your response should match the severity of the offense. A mildly insensitive comment might warrant an educational conversation or a warning, whereas a racial slur might warrant a final warning or termination, depending on the circumstances.

Document your findings and any disciplinary actions taken. Don’t forget to make this clear in your employee handbook. Remember that members get free access to an employee handbook builder through Contact for details.

Source: Mineral


David Katz

Vice President
VMA Insurance Services
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