Taboo Work Topics: New Years Training for Managers

Your management employees are some of the most important members of your company team, not only because they are looked at as leaders of your business but also because company liability can be imparted through their actions. Indeed, things your managers do and do not do are the most frequent source of company liability. How can this be? For one thing, your managers are a legal extension of the business itself.

In the same sense that your business cannot represent itself in a court of law, the actions of your managers do represent the business (at least in a legal sense). Therefore, it is important to keep managers trained and educated in the numerous pitfalls that cause businesses to pay large settlements on a routine basis. It is always in your best interest to remind managers of the following things not to discuss in the workplace, either with a prospective employee or a current one.

Relationship Status

Many managers like to be a member of the team, and therefore ask personal questions of employees. Although being “one of the guys (or girls)” is always a good strategy, it is never acceptable to ask questions that may make an employee feel that he or she has to reveal information about his or her sexuality. There are both state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, and questions about the status of relationship, marriage, or sexual orientation (if severe and pervasive) can lead to a hostile working environment that can be construed as sexual harassment. In general this is a topic that managers should be trained to avoid.


Managers should never bring up the topic of religion at work, even if asked to do so by an employee. Although many managers feel as though they are unbiased with respect to religion, this is a hot button topic that is also a protected discrimination category. Accordingly, if an employee takes a manager’s comment as harassing or feels as though he is being placed under pressure to work on religious holiday because of a manager inquiry, that employee may have a claim for religious discrimination.

Race, Color, National Origin and Age

Although employers are beaten over the head about race and age discrimination in articles and online, they still fail to adequately train their managers about inappropriate comments that lead to costly lawsuits. This is because “off color” comments are often thought of as innocuous and innocent. Truthfully, these types of comments are what get employers into huge trouble with the law, often with respect to age-based comments like “old timer” and “we need to get younger and have more energy.” Typically it is the employer who should be metaphorically “beating the manager” over the head with information about taboo topics in the workplace, as they are the employer, and can cost the business large sums of money.

Of course these are not the only taboo workplace topics. Should your business feel as though its managers need further training, do not hesitate to contact Syntrio at 888-289-6670 to discuss your compliance efforts and any issues that may be arising within your company.


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