Dear Evil HR Lady,
I recently openly criticized the “head honcho” of my company. Amongst 3 or 4 co-workers, I let it be known that that I was growing tired of the consistent homophobic, sexist and racist remarks that the boss makes during company meetings. Of course, my comments made their way back to the boss.
A few days later, I went and had a very honest, forthright and civil discussion with him. I stood by my statement, but assured him that I had no intention of going to HR with these concerns. At this point, I concluded that everything was back to normal. I was wrong.
After 2 years with the company, and not having received one single complaint about my work ethic or abilities, I am suddenly under the microscope. Every move I make or task that I take on are being closely monitored. Petty mistakes are now a major ordeal. My immediate supervisors are constantly inquiring about my whereabouts and activities. It almost seems that they are building a case and getting ready to fire me. Today, I finally brought the situation to HR’s attention. Now crap has really hit the fan.
It was only 3 months ago that my employer told me I was due for a raise on the basis of good work and not ever having heard a complaint about me. I never got the raise, by the way. To summarize: I criticized the most powerful person in the building for inappropriate behavior. 2 years of good work has now been wiped off the table by my employer and everything I do is under scrutiny. Coincidence? I think not.
What’s my next best move? Thanks for your time.
Okay, you made 2 mistakes.
1. Talking about this with co-workers
2. Promising not to say anything to HR
So, let’s fix this. (Which may or may not be possible at this point.)
First, unless you are in a state (or city) where sexual orientation is a protected class, you’re going to have to let the “homophobic” stuff go. The courts are slowly moving to make that illegal under gender discrimination laws anyway, but I wouldn’t count on it, nor base your case on this.
But, discrimination based on race or gender are illegal. Because this is the site head, you can probably make a case that his statements are creating a hostile environment, even if you haven’t specifically suffered harm because of it. You’ll have a harder time if he’s complaining about Hispanic women and you’re neither Hispanic nor a woman, but that may or may not be relevant.
At this point, you may also wish to engage your own attorney. www.nela.org can give you a referral in your area. It will cost you. You can also file a complaint with the EEOC, but I have no idea what they’ll do with it. They are free, but selective in what they do. If you do hire an attorney, please listen to what your attorney says. And please don’t hire your next door neighbor who is a really nice guy who practices family law. If you want to get divorced, call him. If you’re dealing with an employment issue, call an employment lawyer. Please. I beg you.
If you want to go this alone (totally understandably, lawyers cost money and employment lawsuits don’t usually result in huge windfalls), here’s what you do:
You want to write up everything that happened. Dates, times, with whom you spoke, etc. Email it to the appropriate off-site HR person (if there is a corporate office, I’m not clear if this guy is the president of the company or just the site director) with the following subject line: Official complaint of racial and sexual discrimination and retaliation. Do not, under any circumstances, soften that. You want to make it CLEAR that this is what you are complaining about. This is because HR has to investigate an official complaint and you have to give them time to fix the problem. When you’ve stated that this an official complaint of racism/sexism they can’t pretend that you were annoyed about something else.
And why send it to the off-site HR person? Because HR is never the boss and they are never completely independent. Site HR may have a hard line reporting relationship to corporate HR, but they have a dotted line reporting relationship to the site head. Guaranteed. Your local HR person reports in to the boss you are accusing of sexist/racist behavior and she’s concerned about her job. It shouldn’t affect how she handles this, but it could. If this is the president of the company, well, good luck.
Make sure you document how it has gotten worse since complaining. That’s retaliation. This is also illegal.
Also, copy your home email on the email you send to HR, so that you have a date and time stamp of when you sent it.
If you don’t already have copies of your good performance appraisals, try to procure them now and store them at home. You will need these if you get fired. Forward any emails from people praising your work to your home email as well. (Unless your company has a policy against emailing things outside the company. Then check your handbook to see what you’re allowed to do. You’d hate to go through all this and get fired for emailing yourself a document that said you are awesome.)
Last, and most importantly, start looking for a new job. I know, it’s unfair that this guy might win. But, here’s the thing: What is best for you? A job without a racist/sexist boss. What’s the easiest way to get one of those? To look while you still have a job. Once you’ve been fired (which may happen) you’ll have a much more difficult time.
11 thoughts on “My boss makes sexist, racist, homophobic comments during company meetings”
Sadly the advice given is the best advice there is. We all make mistakes, trust people who should not be trusted and when it blows back, the pain is all too real.
You may also think about contacting your state labor office, especially if you find yourself not getting the attention of the off-site HR people. Open an official complaint with the state.
I had to do this back in the 70’s against my workplace. I won the battle, lost the war and was without a job but he was told what he tried to do was not allowed under the law.
Sure I could have tried to win back that minimum wage job but I knew from the moment I filed the complaint it was only a matter of hours between when I quit or when he fired me.
So document everything. If there are people who witnessed the horrible things being said, see if they will be witnesses should it come to that. Don’t go necessarily picking sides, just make sure it is not just your word against his.
Good luck and I’m hoping you find a new and better job where people respect each other and don’t say these horrible things.
It’s really frustrating that often the best move in a case like this is to move on. The pain and anguish of a lawsuit which you may or may not win is rarely worth it. As my brother the lawyer says, the only people who truly win lawsuits are the lawyers. Everyone else is a wreck.
In a lot of cases your brother is entirely correct. Only in extreme cases would I ever consider a lawsuit.
I agree with everything you say with one caveat . . . at this point, it’s not about winning, it’s about surviving. It should also be a lesson learned about oversharing with co-workers. Unless one of them is a life long, battle-tested friend, I wouldn’t trust anyone at work with anything I didn’t mind being repeated to others. This includes friending work friends on social media (or not locking it down, which really it should be because more than just friends and family are looking, potential or current creditors . . . hint, hint). The other lesson learned here should be, if this happens again in the future, and it is likely to given that upper management often does not check itself, go directly to someone who can do something about it. Lastly, do not engage anyone at work who may be complaining about the boss. Good luck!
Complaining about the boss is practically a national sport, but you’re right, it can (and often does) come back to bite you.
Agreed, but if you have a reasonably decent case, you can probably find an employment plaintiff’s attorney to take your case on an contingency basis, especially if you’re fired.
actually I should state that many statutes also allow for the recovery of attorney fees, so many attorneys won’t ask for up front money.
True, but the attorney has to be really sure he’s going to win before taking that kind of a case. Some are slam dunks, this one isn’t a slam dunk. How often does the boss say these things? Are people truly treated differently? And retaliation is often subtle.
Still, if an attorney will give you a free consultation, it’s worth going in a case like this.
In a retaliation case, the costs for the attorney is tax deductible, at least in some states in the US. I found this out when I had to file a case against my employer. And no, none or very, very few of your coworkers are your friend. hard to accept but they don’t want to stand up for you or they would have done what you did already.
If any of my of my work contacts survive after I leave a place, then they may become friends. It has happened at the last 2 places I’ve worked but not before that.
Generally I don’t have friends at work. I have co-workers. They do not get to see my social media stuff and they are not “friends” there or any where else I may let slip something.
I also try to not trust them with frustrations because that can and will come back to hurt you at some point. People will use whatever leverage they have and you may become that leverage.
Honestly, I think that the best idea is to just move on. I mean, yeah, you put a lot of effort and time in this company. However, do you really want to work in an environment like this? And yeah, some people have to be held accounted for their actions, but that would just waste your time, energy and money. And probably you won’t be able to keep any relationship from this company.
It’s somewhat good that you found out about this after 2 and not 4 years.
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