NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Equal- Opportunity Harassment

March 10, 2000

Courts have ruled that supervisors don't have to be nice to their subordinates. That has led to an "I'm mean to everyone" defense in discrimination cases, which seems to be working. The defense is so common that lawyers and employees have dubbed it the "equal-opportunity harasser" defense.

  • By law, employees alleging discrimination have to show evidence that they were terminated for illegal reasons -- such as race, gender, disability or national origin.
  • Legal experts say that managers are allowed to be blustery and have no social skills.
  • So when companies are hauled into court on discrimination charges, they can argue that's just the way the supervisor is -- if he's equally mean to everybody.

That is certainly an unforeseen consequence of anti-discrimination laws and how they are being interpreted by the courts.

Source: Frances A. McMorris, "Discrimination is Hard to Prove if a Boss Treats Everyone Badly," Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2000.


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