The One Thing HR Can’t Do If An Employee Reports a Noose

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By Eric B. Meyer

One employer appears to have screwed up royally, which seems to be part of a trend this week.

Yes, there are several things you don’t want to do if an employee reports a noose in the workplace, among them:

The perils of a “lackadaisical” investigation

Conducting a half-assed, or “lackadaisical,” investigation, as a federal court referred to it in this opinion (Stewart v. Jeld-Wen, Inc.), is a sure way to earn yourself a jury trial on a race discrimination claims:

Plaintiff argues that Defendant’s “investigation” in response to Mr. Stewart discovering a noose in the back of his truck was lackadaisical, out of compliance with its own anti-harassment policy, and otherwise non-effective….Here, the facts presented could lead a reasonable jury to find that Defendant knew about the harassment Plaintiff complains of and failed to respond with remedial action reasonably calculated to end the harassment.”

You know you’re screwed as an employer when you’re reading the Court’s opinion and see “investigation” in quotes. Yikes!

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Taking employee complaints seriously

A word to the wise: Take all workplace complaints seriously. If the complaint is about something real serious — like a noose — consider hiring an experienced outside investigator to investigate the complaint.

You get the benefit of an unbiased professional. Plus, if the complaint has merit, that third-party can suggest a protocol to reasonably ensure that the discrimination does not repeat itself.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (, which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.


1 Comment on “The One Thing HR Can’t Do If An Employee Reports a Noose

  1. More lawsuits on the way, it requires for whites to take the claims of racism seriously something they have never been able to do. White people don’t see racism, it doesn’t affect them, how can they solve an issue they cannot even see? There is no period in this any countries history, where the majority of white people saw racism against non-whites as an issue.

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