It is Time for Businesses to Listen – Millions Awarded in Bullying Suit

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about Andrea Adams and the Trust that was set up to continue her work after she passed away.

You can see that within the post there is the Trust’s logo referencing “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones and Words Can Often Hurt Me.”
Well, hold that thought.
Now think about the recent story out of New York where a Yemeni-born stock clerk named Osama Saleh, who worked at a Pretty Girl clothing store location in Brooklyn was repeatedly called names such as “Bin Laden” and “terrorist” by a co-worker.

The president of the company testified that, in his opinion, being called “Bin Laden” was no big deal.

“It’s not a bad name, it’s a name,” Victor Lavy said. “They were teasing each other by calling the names. They’re playing.”

When I think about this story I immediately think about a moment when I first became a police officer here in Canada. On my very first day, after shaking the hand of my new Chief Constable who was welcoming me to the police department, I went downstairs to receive my uniform kit.The quartermaster who was responsible for handing out uniform items was a grizzled retired officer and I introduced myself to him. I stood next to another new officer, George, who had been born and grew up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

The quartermaster looked at me and said, “Ah, you’re Eastwood. Well let me tell you who I am. I am the guy that started a petition when I heard that we were hiring another “f___ing limey” to make sure that we didn’t, since we have enough “f___ing limies” around here already as far as I’m concerned!”

Context is crucial when we examine this moment of my life and these points are in no particular order of importance since they are all important.

  • I had never met the quartermaster before
  • I had just been “welcomed” to the police department by the Chief Constable
  • I was actually a Canadian Citizen at the time, having just acquired my citizenship card
  • There were three other ‘limies’ working in a department of some 120 officers and there is a large percentage of Canadians who can trace their roots back to some part of Europe and
  • Obviously his ‘petition’ had not succeeded since here I was!

But my main point here is that George (the officer from Maple Ridge) found the comment amusing and in fact laughed out loud when the quartermaster said it to me.
So what one person may find ‘amusing’ (or to quote Victor Lavy, “they’re playing”), another person will find downright disrespectful. If the issue is not dealt with, the situation could (and often will) get worse. The situation for Osama Saleh escalated through the top and ended with an actual physical assault from the security guard who tormented him. Mr. Saleh received a fractured cheekbone.

Hardly “playing” in anyone’s books!

In British Columbia, the legislation is quite clear for all employees, all supervisors and all employers with respect to ensuring that a workplace is free from bullying and harassment.

It is awful stories like the one from Brooklyn, which maintains my passion for the work that we do regarding Respectful Conduct in the workplace.
Oh yes, there might just be a bit of ‘limey’ comment from the quartermaster that keeps me fired up as well!