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Accused of Saying Racial Epithet in Elevator New York New York

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  • Accused of Saying Racial Epithet in Elevator New York New York


    I'm not too sure where to post this, but since it involves a racial matter, I posted it here.

    Last week, I was called into a meeting with several of my supervisors. I work for a large city agency in New York City.

    I was informed that I am being accused of saying a racial epithet. I could not believe it since I have never, ever said anything that could be construed as a racial epithet in the 20 years I've worked there.

    When I asked what it was that I said, I was told that while in the elevator on October 4th, during lunch time, while to speaking to another co-worker about the presidential debate, it was overheard by a third person that I called Barack Obama a monkey. I was also told that an EEO case was going to be filed against me because of this.

    I absolutely could not believe it because I never had conversation about the debate and never, ever did I say the word monkey to anybody. I told the bosses, in a very firm manner, that this is absolutely not true, and to me, this is an act of slander and a totally false allegation.

    The supervisors said that they must investigate. I told them that I am invoking my Weingarten rights, and demand union representation, as this could lead to disciplinary action. One of the bosses got real nasty and said that I cannot get representation because this is not disciplinary. I said that even if I suspect I can be disciplined, and since I'm being threatened with an EEO case, I have to have a union rep as a witness. I went out the door of the conference room, and found our chapter president, and he joined us in the conference room.

    I demanded to know who is slandering me because I never said this and it is my right to confront them and answer this act of slander. The boss told me that they can't tell me. I said why not??? Then what the heck are we here for? I told him that if he didn't get this person in here in five minutes, I'm leaving the room.

    He then called that person's supervisor and was told that they are going to join us.

    The co-worker who I apparently said this to was then brought into the meeting. She was questioned, and she said she never asked me about the debate, and never ever, heard me say the word monkey to describe Obama.

    The person who is accusing me and her supervisor arrived in the conference room shortly thereafter. I don't know this person, I didn't even know their name. They work on the other side of our floor. (she's black and I'm white)

    She was sort of angry that she had to come into the room and explain herself.

    When questioned, she said that my words were: "Romney really put that monkey in his place."

    I said you know that you are being very dishonest because you know I never ever said that, or anything like it around you, and that you are committing an act of slander against me, and it's a totally false allegation.

    My co-worker was questioned again, and denied ever having a conversation about the debate or ever hearing me say the word I'm accused of saying.

    My accuser then said where would she get the word monkey from, since she never had a pet monkey (???????).

    We went back and forth for a while, she stating that I have to be mindful of other people, and I kept stating over and over that this is a false allegation, and that she is committing an act of slander.

    It was decided by the supervisors, not to take this to EEO, since, of course, there's no evidence that this thing I'm accused of ever happened.

    After the meeting, the bosses seemed to keep their distance from me. I'm also having the union rep make a complaint to our labor relations division about the attempt to prevent me from getting representation (my name won't be used).

    I don't know if the accuser is slandering me or repeating this allegation to other people, I haven't heard anyone else say anything yet.

    Besides having the union rep making a complaint to HR, is there anything that I should do about this ridiculous incident? Should I send detailed documentation which I have already written up of the meeting, to the supervisors? Should I complain to HR?? to our EEO office?

    Or should I just forget about it?

    Thanks for any response.

    P.S. - I just noticed there's a defamation board - should this be posted there instead?
    Last edited by Jeffx; 10-14-2012, 08:59 AM. Reason: move to another board?

  • #2
    Until or unless you suffer any actual damages that can be directly attributed to this incident (and by actual damages I mean you get demoted, suffer a pay reduction, are disciplined, etc - I do not mean being called into the supervisors office and asked about it, or having the bosses "keep their distance" unless such distance means you are unable to perform your duties) I'd drop it.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      Obviously this is very upsetting but at the same time, you need to realize that there is a limit to what your employer is required to do and what they are able to do. They are not required to allow you to have a union rep during an investigation meeting. They are also not required to tell you who your accuser is or let you confront them and it is actually a HUGE faux pas on their part that they did so. In court you have the right to face your accuser, but NOT in the workplace. That could have ended very badly and they now have a huge potential liability on their hands for having done it. Not to mention if anything happens to this woman, guess who goes to the top of the suspect list?

      At this point there isn't much to do nor am I sure what you expect to happen. Legally, your employer is not required to do a thing. Your union rep can guide you if there is anything required per the CBA. If you haven't heard from your supervisor by the end of the week, I would follow up with a brief but polite email, call or meeting to find out the status of the investigation. Don't be confrontational or start making demands, just ask. In the mantime, just do your job and do not engage any of the parties to this situation in anything other than a professional capacity.
      I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


      • #4
        Your employer cannot file an EEO case against you even if you did this. The most your employer can do to you for this is fire you.


        • #5
          Fortunately, OP, you appear to be protected under a collective bargaining agreement and/or civil service protection system. Your supervisor in all likelihood cannot terminate or even discipline you over this matter since all significant discipline in your workplace is presumably restricted by a “just cause” provision or provisions under the CBA and the civil service protection system. Consequently, management undoubtedly realizes that a discipline based on this type of “he said she said” dispute would probably not be upheld by an arbitrator down the road.

          At this point, you may want to keep your powder dry to determine whether your supervisor or anyone else in management retaliates against you due to this harassment allegation and/or due to your seeking union representation.


          • #6
            Thank for the replies

            Thank you, everybody for replying.

            So far, nothing more has happened connected with this event. was sort of mentioned, I need to keep ready to "defend myself" if necessary.

            It really does bother me that they think they can so easily violate my right to representation, or threaten me with an EEO case.

            I highly doubt I could be fired since it was alleged something was said in an elevator (which might not be considered a part of my immediate workplace), and firing an employee at my place of employment requires a "General Hearing" which this was certainly not.
            Last edited by Jeffx; 10-21-2012, 04:14 PM.


            • #7
              I am telling you what the law says: I am not telling you anything about company policy or what I do or don't think will happen.

              As far as the LAW is concerned, you can LEGALLY be fired for something that was said, or was alleged to be said, outside of work hours and/or off the work site altogether. There is NO requirement that you have to be on the work site or on work time before you can be fired for something.

              There is NO requirement that there be a hearing of any kind before an employee can be fired.

              If your employer has such a policy, fine - I'm just telling you that the LAW does not prohibit firings under the circumstances you have described.
              The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


              • #8
                Agree with cbg that you can be terminated/fired under the circumstances you noted in that there is no law against it. However; as ESteele pointed out, you might have protection under a CBA and/or civil service protection system. (or even employer policy .....)
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.