We live and work in a very diverse state and country. If we have learned nothing else over the past decades, it has become painstakingly obvious that the work environment has to be free of any form of discrimination. Interracial dating has broadened the spectrum because employees are not necessarily aware of the ethnic background of a co-workers spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other, and they make some inappropriate remark, or joke, because they have a comfort level with the person to whom they are speaking with. Let me give you a couple of examples. I was asked to investigate an allegation of harassment by an employee against his manager. The facts were simple enough. In early 2009, after President Obama was sworn in, the manager approached his subordinate, took out his cellphone, and asked him to listen to a tune. The song that he played was the theme song from the hit TV series; “The Jeffersons.” As the tune was playing, the manager commented that with Obama in the White House, that song was destined to be the new National Anthym. The subordinate was offended because he was married to an African-American.
Another example, two employees speaking in a language they “thought” the other person did not understand and were making inappropriate racial comments about the third party. As it turned out, that third party was married to a person of the same ethnic background as the two who were making the derogatory remarks and had learned the language over the years.
There are other cases. Interracial dating by co-workers and other employees making inappropriate comments has also “stirred the pot.” When we think f nonfraternization policies we normally think of it in relationship to potential sexual hassment claims. As many of you probably know, I am not an advocate of nonfraternization policies. Lust, will always find a way! You cannot stop employees from dating each other but you can be an advocate of a creating a work environment free of any form of harassment.