May 8, 2017
The original articles is from Fair Measures, Inc. but it validates everything I have said for over 25 years. The case actually reminds me of a case in which I was an expert witness on EEO training in a racial discrimination case in West Virginia. When organizations skimp on EEO training for managers, supervisors and employees the costs are horrendous. Two to Three hours on a regular basis really helps to reinforce the policy and the laws.
Ten minutes is simply not enough. First of all the employees do not take it seriously and has no positive effect. Third It takes more than 10 minutes to just review policy and law. Most of all 10 minutes does not really show that the organization is following the court with adequate preventative action.
10 Minute Training after Harassment Complaint is Not Enough
A company that responded to a racial harassment complaint with 10 minutes of training must now go to trial to try to prove it took appropriate remedial action. That was the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in December 2015.
The case was brought by Ms. Shawron Lounds, an African American employee, who was hired by Ms. Kraft as a customer-service representative in September 2011. On her first day of work, Ms. Lounds was called “Shaquita” and “Shaniqua” by Ms. Kraft, who told other employees Ms. Lounds’ name was “Shaniqua or Shanay or something.” A month later, Ms. Kraft told Ms. Lounds that she “imagined” that a customer on the phone “by the sounds of his voice” was “a big African American man,” and told Ms. Lounds to “get ghetto with him.” (It later turned out the customer was white.)
The next month, Ms. Lounds came upon some co-workers discussing a recent event in the news involving an African American man. One of her co-workers, Mr. Kunz, said “we need to bring back lynching.” According to Ms. Lounds, Mr. Kunz later attempted to clarify that he was “not racist, and there was nothing wrong with lynching,” before he approached her to say, “I’m not trying to offend you[;] it’s not like I said ‘let[’]s go down [to] 9th and Grove (the Black Neighborhood) and drag every black person with a noose, tie them to a truck and drag them after hanging them.’” When Ms. Lounds objected to his commentary, Mr. Kunz rejoined that she should not be so sensitive.
Ms. Lounds alleges that a month later, another co-worker, Ms. Kempke, entered the office, announced that she had “just c[o]me back from the ‘Hood’ seeing a patient,” and began chanting, “BOOM!” and “Boom, Nigga!”
In all, Ms. Lounds alleged about six instances of harassment in about a four-month period. She finally complained to the District Manager. After an HR investigation, Kraft, Kunz and Kempke were given Final Written Warnings. The District Manager also led an in-service training that lasted approximately ten minutes “to make sure everyone was clear on [the] company policy on anti-discrimination and harassment.” Although Ms. Kempke attended, Ms. Kraft and Mr. Kunz did not.
After the warnings and training, Ms. Lounds complained that other harassing comments were made and her co-workers gave her the cold shoulder. None of the harassers were fired. She finally filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Commission alleging racial harassment.
When the case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, the court noted that an employer is liable for harassment after it is reported by the employee “only if the employer fails to take adequate remedial and preventative responses.” However, the court said in this case the employer—which pointed to the Final Written Warnings and the 10 Minute Training—“has not made a meaningful defensive argument against liability…”
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.
Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!
About the Author: Rita M. Risser Chai
Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.