HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

No Workplace Policy Can Prevent People Doing Something Really Stupid

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By Eric B. Meyer

On Martin Luther King Day, I performed community service with a few of my co-workers and my 4-year-old son. We went to a local center and spent a few hours making peanut butter sandwiches to feed the homeless.

Actually, we spent a half-hour or so making sandwiches. Most of us spent the remainder of the time continuing to make sandwiches, while my son ate peanut butter.

Win-win.

But imagine, if instead of performing community service, my co-workers and I decided to host an “MLK Black Party,” where we dressed in basketball jerseys, flashing gang signs and drank from watermelon cups.

An offensive “tribute” to Martin Luther King

KVVU-TV Fox 5 reports that this is exactly what a bunch of knucklehead students from the TKE Fraternity at Arizona State University did on Monday. Below is the video report.

These students were not only ignorant enough to host this party, but two shared it on Instagram (complete with hashtags like #mlkparty, #watermeloncup, #hood, #blakcoutformlk and #ihaveadream). Both appear to have since deleted their Instagram accounts.

Takeaways for employers

There are two things to remember here:

  1. Policies can’t prevent stupidity. While it is prudent to educate and train your workforce on policies governing discrimination and responsible use of social media, stupidity like this proves that no matter what type of policy or guidance you may provide, problems in the workplace will arise.
  2. It’s how you respond that matters. When it comes to folks who create a hostile work environment for others, make sure that you take the immediate necessary steps that are reasonably designed to end the harassment.

Arizona State University has suspended the TKE fraternity. We’ll see whether some of the students involved continue to receive their education from ASU.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .
  • Crystal Spraggins

    Hmmm … I’m guessing the idea of community service was just too boring and predictable. “Let’s do something DIFFERENT and CREATIVE guys!!”

    But to your point, the workplace will always produce a new level of stupid. That’s just the way it is.

  • ChadV

    Let’s face it…if we could policy out stupid, we would be denying ourselves of so much entertaining conversational fodder! The stupid keep us chuckling (usually long after the fact, granted), and they help us stay aware of our own blessed superiority. I, for one, am grateful for the stupid that surround me, if only because I get to feel so much better about myself as a result.