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For Boss' Day: 5 Legal Lessons From Bad Bosses

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It may not be marked on your calendar, but today is Boss' Day in the United States, a day for workers to show their employers a little appreciation whether by a card, an email, or even a gift.

But along with celebrating good bosses, Boss' Day is also a great time to look back at some bad bosses. Bad bosses don't just make for unhappy employees; being a bad boss can also increase the odds of your business encountering legal trouble, which typically makes for unhappy bosses as well.

So for Boss' Day, here are five legal lessons from bad bosses:

  1. Don't buy lap dances for your staff. A Los Angeles law firm was sued for sexual harassment after the founding partner took employees to a bikini bar following a company holiday party, paying employees' admission and buying lap dances. Generally, any time you're taking your employees to somewhere called Fantasy Island, you may want to rethink your itinerary.
  2. Respond properly to sexual harassment complaints. Earlier this year, dating-app company Tinder was sued by a former VP who not only alleged that she was sexually harassed by male Tinder executives (which is bad), but also claimed that the company failed to respond to her complaints regarding the harassment and instead forced her to resign (which is also bad).
  3. Don't use the N-word or other racially offensive language. A hostile work environment similar to that created by sexual harassment can also be the result of the use of racially offensive language in the workplace. For example, in 2013, a black worker at a New York employment agency was awarded $250,000 for her manager's aggressive use of the N-word.
  4. Offensive jokes can be trouble too. Even jokes that don't involve exclusively sexual or racial insensitivity can lead to legal trouble. Case in point: A former in-house attorney for insurance company AIG sued the company, alleging that his former boss constantly taunted him about his weight, calling him "Fat Albert" and humming the "Fat Albert" cartoon theme tune in the employee's presence.
  5. Don't mess with the breast. Under federal law, employers must give "reasonable break time" to non-exempt employees to express breast milk for one year following the birth of a child. State laws may add additional requirements for employers of new moms. Although there are significant loopholes in breastfeeding rules for employees, any attempt to prohibit or limit the rights of new moms to breastfeed or pump milk for their children while at work may lead to a lawsuit.

Learn more about keeping on the right side of the laws governing employees, wages, and other common workplace issues at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on Employment Law.

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