I recently complained that Amy Dickson, author of the “Ask Amy” syndicated advice column, had given some poor (or at least premature) employment law advice to a reader. Apparently, a number of her readers expressed similar concerns, and, to her credit, Amy has corrected herself — twice now.
Dear Amy: “Worried Worker” described a toxic work environment. You immediately leapt to the conclusion that this treatment amounted to gender discrimination. To me, it sounded like her boss was a total jerk, but I didn’t see gender discrimination.
Workplace Survivor: You are right. I jumped to a conclusion, with no specific evidence. “Worried” described the environment as “a good ol’ boys club,” but this doesn’t mean that the ill treatment was gender-based.
Well done! Then she did it again today:
Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter from “Worried Worker.”
Lots of people have to work with jerks, but that’s life. It’s only illegal if it’s discrimination because you’re a woman, or because of your race, etc.
Not all bad behavior is worthy of a lawsuit, and while that boss sounds horrible it should be a learning experience.
My dad always told me, “Don’t leave a job because of someone, because people come and go.” I have found that to be true. Just because people are hostile does not make it a hostile work environment in the eyes of the law.
Sandra: You are right. However, “Worried” would learn if this behavior was actionable by researching her legal rights.
Notice this time, Amy said “would learn if this behavior was actionable by researching her legal rights.” In other words, she is no longer assuming that “Worried Worker” has an open-and-shut hostile environment case. Good for Amy. I’d still recommend writing to a real HR advice column for HR advice, but Amy deserves credit for correcting herself, not once, but twice. She has some sharp readers, too!
Robin Shea is a Partner with the law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and has more than 20 years’ experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act), the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act; and class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage-hour laws; defense of audits by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs; and labor relations. She conducts training for human resources professionals, management, and employees on a wide variety of topics.