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Angry Employees
Harvard Law & Policy Review (2016)
  • Susan D. Carle, American University Washington College of Law
INTRODUCTION: To read federal case law decided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19641-the provision that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other characteristics-is to be struck by the continuing racial and sexual hostility in U.S. workplaces today, and also at courts' too frequent unwillingness to address it. Courts throw out plaintiffs' cases even where the facts involve such egregious employer behavior as, in the race context, supervisors repeatedly calling employees the n-word and using other racial epithets, ordering African American employees to perform work others in the same job classification do not have to do, and imposing discipline white employees do not face for comparable conduct. In the gender context, courts throw out plaintiffs' cases even where supervisors have engaged in egregious sexual harassment.' Why such results? In all the cases just described, employees reacted to employers' demeaning treatment angrily-for example, by cursing, shouting, refusing an order, or leaving the workplace-and then were fired for "insubordination." The article will refer to such acts, which fall short of threats of violence and are brief in duration, as "mild to moderate" insubordination and will use the approach of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) to define this term. Under the Board's approach, to be discussed further in Section III below, the conduct may not involve violence or actual threats of violence; it may not substantially interfere with workplace productivity; and it may not continue over a sustained period but instead involve a short, spontaneous outburst by an employee who generally exhibits acceptable workplace conduct but has been angered by a supervisor's problematic act.
  • NLRB,
  • workplace productivity,
  • violence,
  • threats,
  • insubordination,
  • fire,
  • race,
  • sex,
  • hostility
Publication Date
Citation Information
Susan D. Carle. "Angry Employees" Harvard Law & Policy Review Vol. 10 (2016) p. 185 ISSN: 1935-2077
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