You always want to be friendly, but there are some topics that are simply inappropriate for the office.
Sometimes without even knowing it, people say things to coworkers that could be considered inappropriate or discriminatory, even to the point of leaving their companies open to employment lawsuits.
Below are eight discriminatory things you or your coworkers might be doing that you should avoid. Keep in mind that employment laws vary from state to state, so what might be illegal in one place could be merely rude and inappropriate in another.
1. Asking someone when they plan to retire.
This can be construed to mean that you think your coworker or employee is becoming too old to work, a sentiment that violates the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, a federal law that applies to workers over the age of 40. While discrimination based on race or sex is often more overt, age discrimination can be as subtle as referring to someone as “past their prime” or “over the hill,” or repeating the old maxim that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
In general, it is best to avoid remarking on people’s age, unless their age is demonstrably relevant to their ability to perform a certain job function.
2. Making fun of someone’s whiteness.
While there might not be much actual harm in referring to your coworker’s brunch habit as “so white,” the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects Caucasians from discrimination the same as it does people of any other race. One such instance won’t be enough to get you sued, but repeated harassment could lead to your office being deemed a “hostile workplace environment” for white employees.
In 2012, the County of Kauai, Hawaii paid out $120,000 to settle a reverse racism case brought by a white county lawyer who said one of her bosses allegedly told her she needed to assimilate better with the local culture and dump her white boyfriend.
3. Making positive generalized statements about an ethnic group or race.
The phrase “you people” is never a good idea because it makes it clear that you are classifying an employee in a given group with a set of pre-defined traits. Even if those traits are positive (i.e. “you guys are such hard workers”), it could lead others in your office to wonder whether your judgments about their race influence how you think about their work..
Read full article via 8 Inappropriate Things You Might Be Doing at Work | Entrepreneur.com.
Jim is president of InnoThink Group and Leadership Matters. He is a leader in workplace learning, productivity, performance, and leadership training solutions. For over 25 years, we have helped companies improve their performance, productivity, and bottom-line results.