For decades now American businesses, both for-profits and not-for-profits, have struggled to come up with effective ways to build work environments that respect cultural differences. In training programs, for example, there is a fine line between educating employees about working with or supervising people from different cultures and reinforcing hurtful — and discriminatory — stereotypes.
Three former employees of Target Corp. claim in a lawsuit that the training materials for warehouse managers in their area went too far, that the “Organizational Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips” document distributed to the managers was both an example of discrimination in practice and outright offensive.
We should note that the facilities in question were not in New Jersey.
Court documents show that the “tip sheet” included statements like, “Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos,” and “Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero.” The plaintiffs further claim that their supervisors, who were all white, regularly used racial slurs when dealing with Hispanic workers. One plaintiff claims he was fired soon after he complained to human resources about the conduct.
To Target’s credit, the company apologized in a statement released soon after receiving a copy of the Multi-Cultural Tips. “The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is,” the statement said, adding that the document was never part of any company-sanctioned training program. The company added that it accepted full responsibility for the document.
While the corporation may distance itself from the warehouse operations’ training materials, the apology will have no bearing on the discrimination claim. The lawsuit, however, could have an effect on the careers of the supervisors and the document’s authors.
Source: Huffington Post, “Target Reminded Bosses Not All Hispanic Employees Eat Tacos, Wear Sombreros: Lawsuit,” Kim Bhasin, July 10, 2013