I am not a fan of reality TV. However, in this reality TV election season, it is hard to tear my eyes (and ears) away from the barbs being exchanged primarily between the Republican candidates. Whether you support him or not, you have to admit that Donald Trump says things that make people cringe. From an HR perspective, the verbal lobs tossed by Mr. Trump offer a minefield of potential discrimination claims if they were delivered in the employment setting.
Imagine that Donald Trump was one of your supervisors or plant manager. You might [read: would] have a problem. Let’s issue spot some of his comments.
Little Marco and Lying Ted. Of course, Messrs. Rubio and Cruz are Hispanic. The lone remaining Republican candidate, Governor John Kasich, is not Hispanic. If your supervisor – here, Trump – chooses to disparage the Hispanics in your workforce, might you have concerns regarding race discrimination?
Blood pouring out of her whatever. This one is straightforward, right? The obvious implication is, of course, unique to women. Gender discrimination. And depending on the severity of how the comments are perceived given the platform – national TV – sexual harassment.
Serge Kovaleski. Mr. Kovaleski is a New York Times reporter who lives with a chronic condition that affects his ability to move his arms. In other words, he is disabled. Having a disability does not immunize one from criticism. But the nature of the criticism runs afoul of the law when it is targeted at the disability. This is the consensus of most media outlets reacting to Mr. Trump’s comments regarding Mr. Kovaleski.
They are not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, their rapists… This one is also straightforward. The comments here disparage all of the Mexicans who are being “sent” to the U.S. National origin discrimination.
This, of course, is a non-exhaustive list. We can only hope the barbs being launched by Mr. Trump remain in the political forum and do not creep into our workplaces. Having said that, and given the national stage presently enjoyed by the candidates, HR would do well to remind employees through training what is acceptable in the workplace. To the extent there are discussions in the workplace touching on these issues, this may also give rise to “teachable moments” regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior.