Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Workplace Bullying Costs Employer

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced the settlement of a disability discrimination and retaliation suit that it had brought against London Manhattan Corp., a meat distributor. The suit was brought on behalf of an autistic employee who was repeatedly bullied by his coworkers and was fired when he complained to management about a hostile work environment.

The harassment included tying the employee with masking tape, putting gel in his hair, littering his work area with pornographic pictures and wrapping his legs with plastic with a meat-wrapping machine…

The lawsuit was resolved by a consent decree signed by Judge Laura Taylor Swain on June 16, 2008 in New York. In addition to paying the victim $70,000, London Manhattan must also take substantial steps to prevent future workplace harassment. The company is required to: post and maintain EEOC remedial notices and posters; provide training to all employees regarding federal laws prohibiting discrimination; and adopt and maintain an antidiscrimination policy and complaint procedure. London Manhattan is also enjoined from discriminating against any individual on the basis of his or her disability and from retaliating against anyone who participated in the EEOC's investigation or litigation of this case.

"Employees with a disability have a legal right to work in an environment that is free from harassment and abuse," said EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.

Although the United States' antidiscrimination laws often do not go far enough in protecting autistic workers from employment discrimination, workplace bullying is one situation where there's a reasonable chance of an employer being held liable for failing to prevent the harassment. With a few more lawsuits like this, maybe employers will start getting the message that tormenting the "nerd" isn't funny or a game—rather, it's illegal discrimination and can result in legal liability and negative press coverage for the company.

Here's a big YAY to the EEOC for recognizing that workplace bullying is a serious problem and for kicking some prejudiced employer butt!



  • Sorry to hear about the harrassment, good to hear about the EEO system working.

    Now if the EEO guy would just notice his own bias in the statement.

    "Employees with a disability have a legal right to work in an environment that is free from harassment and abuse," said EEOC New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.

    The phrase 'with a disablity' technically does not even belong here.

    Employees have a legal right to work in an environment that is free from harassment and abuse.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:38 AM  

  • While I am gladdened (a bit) by the outcome of the suit, $70,000 is small potatoes to a large company. It probably only compensates the person fired for actual time off work that was taken in filing this suit.

    If the person that was tied up with masking tape and wrapped up in plastic from the meat wrapping machine was black or female (instead of having Asperger's) then I think the award would have been quite a bit higher.


    By Blogger Club 166, at 2:48 PM  

  • Does the harrassed employee have to tell the employer about the harrassment before he sues, to give him a chance to do something about it? That would be hard.

    By Blogger James Pate, at 10:22 PM  

  • The thing about bullying is that the ones that do never grew out of it in school and they are potential menaces to every vulnerable person around them - like their kids or spouse. The only way to stop this is in school and it really needs doing because when kids bully, they're not taking responsibility for what's happening in their lives, simply finding someone else to blame and make themselves feel better.
    I had a little bully once in one of my classes who thought it might be OK to harass the spec ed kid in the class. He got the usual Glasser treatment plus some advice that if he kept doing this he was going to develop a yellow streak where his spine ought to be. He was going to grow up to be a coward, which is what all bullies are anyway. There is a tremendous social cost to society to give bullying a free pass.

    By Blogger Alyric, at 8:39 AM  

  • I agree with Alex. It cost everyone to allow this.

    We handled bullies a little differently where I lived. I went to a small, remote, rural school. Recess was held on an acre of open land.

    Fights happened everyday and weren't broken up right away. We had lots of older kids in lower grades (few graduated and they were mostly girls....some boys were allowed not to read).

    Bullies were eventually handled but not right away.I remember a fight when two 7th grade boys in their mid teens got into fist fight. It was between the biggest bully and the biggest kid (a gentle giant).The bully was smaller but he had picked on the giants kid brother (bad move).

    More than a hundred kids and the teachers watched. The fight even lasted after the bell rang and we didn't have to go in.

    The bully got beat up and quit school. Crude but effective.

    The work place is going to need to become more civil toward differences or fall behind because different types will be all they have to choose from for employment.

    By Blogger Ed, at 8:16 AM  

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