Working around slurs in workplace Complaints can help,but there are pitfalls.

April 02, 1992|By Dexter Reveron | Dexter Reveron,Knight-Ridder News Service

As American companies restructure, and the work force becomes more diverse, racial and ethnic tension could increase.

Harder work for less pay kindles unhappiness. Cuts spur fear of job loss. Meanwhile, it may seem to some workers that more of the remaining jobs are going to Hispanics, blacks and other minorities.

That's fertile ground for disparaging racial and ethnic


Such remarks alone rarely result in firings or legal action. Usually, fTC

they are resolved with talks and warnings, experts say.

But standing up against racial insults can be intimidating or risky, even if you succeed in stopping them. So think carefully before you start down a lonely road lined with traps. If you are the target of racial or ethnic slurs, consider this advice from experts:

* Don't react with anger. That gives the alleged offender a legitimate grievance.

* Walk away from the offender and think about what happened.

* How do you feel? Have you shown a tolerance for others' insulting ethnic remarks? If so, "It's difficult to turn around later and draw the line" by complaining, says Terence Connor, a labor lawyer with the Miami firm Morgan Lewis Bockius.

* Examine the offender. Was the slight intentional? Do you believe that the person dislikes you or others of your ethnic background?

If you do, then the next question becomes even more important: How will complaining affect your career?

Tell the offender how you feel. "Discuss your concerns in a non-confrontational way," says Claude Hurst, a management consultant who advises companies on issues of ethnic diversity and affirmative action.

If the insult occurs again, give a second warning if you think it will work. If not, use company procedures for making a complaint.

Experts disagree on whether, and when, to complain in writing.

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