Ask Evil HR Lady: What Do You Do When Your Coworkers Are Stuck in 9th Grade?

I have a friend who’s a government worker. She’s overweight, knows it and is working on it. It has absolutely nothing to do with her competence at her job, and nothing to do with her worth as a person.

She walked in on a conversation she was never meant to hear, where one of her co-workers who she thought was a friend was talking about how “she thinks she’s so bad with all the martial arts stuff, but she’ll never find a man to love her because she’s fat.” (My friend takes two forms of Martial Arts.)

My friend handled the situation far, far better than I would have, letting this person know that she was out of line and that in the future she’d appreciate her not talking about her, and if there’s an issue to bring it to her face.

Does she have grounds for a complaint to management? Is it even worth it?

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10 thoughts on “Ask Evil HR Lady: What Do You Do When Your Coworkers Are Stuck in 9th Grade?

  1. Evil HR Lady :),
    I always enjoy your articles, but this one especially. I have been very fortunate to find a 99% female work group with no behind-the-scenes craziness. But it’s the first job ever that’s been this way. Your humor and insight are spot-on. Mean Girls will always be a fav and I love how you incorporated that so fluidly in your article. So glad I found your site and subscribed! Best, Darla

  2. Evil HR Lady,

    I was reading your article and noticed that you mentioned that discrimination based on weight isn’t illegal, but the last time I read an article regarding “things you can’t discriminate against when hiring” weight was on the list. Assuming the person can pass the physical, if one is required, you can’t discriminate against them based on their weight (I believe it is now considered a disability if you are overweight). Have I interpreted this wrong? Your insight would be appreciated.

    1. You SHOULDN’T discriminate based on weight, but unless there is a disability associated with it, you can.

      Which generally means the person who is 20 pounds overweight has no protection, but the person who is 200 pounds overweight does.

      The EEOC would love to see weight as a protected class.

          1. I never know what jurisdictions you’re talking about, Suzanne; USA, Switzerland, the whole world… I’d guess your audience is mostly American though.

            Always love your articles of course.

            How about this idea… is discriminating on weight illegal because of the disparate impact? Not all races have the same average weight…

            So isn’t discriminating on weight therefore creating a disparate impact? Never seen this argued anywhere, in any jurisdiction, but it seems to me that it’d be illegal on its face for this reason.

            Summon your inner Law and Order watcher and tell me what you think!

  3. Yes, in Michigan it is illegal to discriminate based on weight. Not sure if there are any other states who have laws regarding weight, However, It is still legal per federal law. Regardless of the legalities, it is still unprofessional and rude.

  4. Yes, this person handled this very well. But, if I were her I might still mention it to my manager telling her that there was nothing to be done as I handle it – but, I thought she would like to know.

    I know this might come across as “tattling” on someone; but, often folks who put down others like that do NOT do it in front of managers; and good Lord, I would hate for that person to some day be promoted without management knowing what kind of jerk she could be.

    While it is a somewhat different scenario, as a trainer I often notify managers when one of the staff is being a jerk in training class. I tell them that I am handling the situation and they don’t need to do or say anything, But thought they deserved a “heads up” just in case the situation escalates.

  5. I agree with Charles in some situations letting Management know is important and as a trainer I’ve used my discretion when this was necessary and in one case fortunately so as it escalated far beyond my initial worst case scenario of high school tantrum it went right down to preschool toy throwing…

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