Friday, April 18, 2008

The Book of Poop

Pp Thanks to Daniel Schwartz over at Connecticut Employment Law Blog for the heads-up about his post today on the recent disability case of Murphy v. Beavex, Inc.  The plaintiff-employee apparently had several "bowel incidents" at work.  Co-workers left "The Book of Poop" (purportedly a children's book, though Schwartz could find no evidence of this book's existence) at his desk and called him names such as “Mr. Sh_tty,” “The Sh_tmeister,” and “Poopy.”  The court found that this was not enough to create a hostile work environment:

In considering the remaining alleged incidents in a light most favorable to [the Plaintiff], the court concludes that a reasonable jury could not find such conduct so severe and pervasive as to have altered his working conditions.  While it was insensitive for [the Plaintiff]’s coworkers to call him names and leave a scatological children’s book near his workspace, such teasing does not rise to the level of severity and pervasiveness required to defeat a motion for summary judgment.


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Cases like this make me wonder about the efficacy of workplace anti-bullying initiatives. I applaud the efforts of Prof. Yamada, and will be interested to see what will come of the Maryland Anti-Bullying legislation. But I do wonder how such legislation confronts First Amendment issues, and obviously anti-discrimination laws on harassment are ill-equipped to deal with workplace bullying.

Incidentally, Bob Sutton has a book out on this (The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't) that I want to read. He also has a blog full of tips for identifying and surviving an a$$hole-infested workplace. Interesting, all.

By the way, I tried to hyperlink to the book, but Typepad doesn't allow HTML comments. Argh!

Posted by: Dana Nguyen | Apr 18, 2008 5:04:12 PM

This case calls to mind one of the worst cases I ever worked on as a union lawyer. It involved a municipal employee who'd been fired after he was caught smearing his own feces on the washroom walls. It was obvious to everyone that the poor fellow was mentally ill, and the union and employer tried to work together to get him a work-related disability retirement. But the guy refused to go along, insisting he hadn't done it, there was nothing wrong with him, and it was all a huge conspiracy between his supervisor, the local police, and the CIA (OK, I made up the part about the CIA; the rest is 100% true).

In any event, this gentleman was thenceforth known within my office as "Mr. Poopy".

Posted by: eric | Apr 18, 2008 5:52:38 PM

I can assure you that the book exists and I read it to my daughter many, many times when she was about 2.

Posted by: Mitchell H. Rubinstein | Apr 18, 2008 7:49:15 PM

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