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FAU employee reprimanded for hostile work environment: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a recent incident at FAU. A parking enforcement officer at the University was formally reprimanded for creating a hostile work environment after he displayed a racially-charged photo and a hangman's noose in his office.

As we previously mentioned, employees or employers who create a hostile work environment often have a history of subtle offenses before they are finally called to task for their actions. This appears to be the case for this employee as well.

An investigation into his prior conduct revealed other complaints against the man which had not been formally reported in the past. According to FAU's office of Equal Opportunity Programs, there were at least three employees who saw the noose or the photo in the man's office.

Employees also reported hearing other racially-insensitive comments from the parking enforcement officer. One employee who saw the photo also said he has heard his boss say "damn Hispanics!" after breaking up one altercation.

Another female employee who had seen the photo said the man once told her that he had complained to the management in a Publix supermarket after he heard store employees speaking Spanish to one another.

The woman who originally filed the formal complaint is a police service technician for the University. She is Latina. Her original complaint stated that she found the photo offensive, and on several occasions, she has felt singled out because of her gender and ethnic background.

She also reports that she continues to face antagonistic treatment even after filing the complaint. She says: "I will still say good morning, but I will not receive a response." This has made me feel less than equal to my male counterparts."

The University's investigation did not find evidence that the woman had been discriminated against because of her national origin or gender, but it did find evidence that the man created a hostile working environment with his actions and comments.

Unfortunately, it appears as though several employees were made uncomfortable by this man's racially-charged comments and behaviors in the past, yet no one spoke up until the incident involving the picture and the noose. If a coworker or employer creates a hostile work environment through words or actions, it is important to report it right away.

Source: University Press online, "Tension: Photo and noose create 'hostile work environment' at FAU," Sergio N. Candido, 11 April 2011

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