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Can anyone help me deal with this colleague please? Offensive comments.

(20 Posts)
Brideandgloom Tue 27-Nov-12 20:05:06

Work colleague frequently refers to people as retards/fucking retards etc.

Dsd has mild sen, even if this weren't close to home I would still find this really offensive.

Today the colleague became very aggressive verbally towards me and stated that they had a right to use the word retard as an insult because it means stupid. Apparently she has looked this word up and the dictionary says she is right and I am to shut up or she will say it even more. Her rant literally came out of nowhere, there was a normal conversation going on, she lost it completely, everyone was very shocked. She was screaming and being physically quite threatening. She made comments about my daughter during her rant.

I have spoken to my line manager before and asked them to do some general awareness type training as quite a few people were using the word retard as an insult in the office without really thinking about the meaning.
Hr agreed that it is not on, agreed that they would take any future disablist language seriously and act accordingly.

This person was on maternity leave at the time and didn't have the training. She has always been very unpopular in the office because she has form for being verbally very nasty to people with no provocation, she does have a pretty awful home life by the sounds of it so I don't know how much of this is down to that if you see what I mean.

I need your help to verbalise to my line manager just how awful this word is ( well to me anyway). I wanted to know if anyone can point me to some literature I can use ? My manager rang me this evening and said she was going to have a one to one with her about it but she was more concerned about her shouting in the office than what she was actually saying. What I find disturbing is that she has told some colleagues that she was planning a confrontation today to "teach me a lesson".

StarlightMcKenzie Tue 27-Nov-12 20:07:11


I don't think training is going to help here tbh.

cornycarrotshack Tue 27-Nov-12 20:14:19

She should be getting some kind of official warning surely?
You're protected by the equality act - it states that carers must not be harassed due to their child's disability ( or something)
She's gone about 5 steps further than that I should think

PolterGoose Tue 27-Nov-12 20:15:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Tue 27-Nov-12 20:17:39

Not surprised she isn't popular. Hopefully, she's shot herself in the foot with this public rant. Make sure the content is included in her disciplinary 'chat' not just the volume. hmm

Jacksmania Tue 27-Nov-12 20:18:19

shock have you told your manager about the "teach a lesson" comment? That's frankly threatening!

chocjunkie Tue 27-Nov-12 20:22:53

i would consider a grievance tbh

AgnesDiPesto Tue 27-Nov-12 20:37:26

Lots of info on Equality and Human Rights Commission look at resources for employers

You can make an informal complaint - which you have already done
You can make a formal complaint / grievance and they have to tell you the outcome eg what training or disciplinary action being taken
If you were forced to leave because of harassment you may have a case of unfair dismissal
You could in theory complain to the police about harassment
If your employer is a public authority they also have duties under Human Right Act see carers guide to human rights act

Look at the Equality Act info as a carer of a person with a disability you are covered by Equality Act as you have association with someone who is disabled

I would not suggest you necessarily go in all guns blazing but you should expect it to be taken seriously and not happen again. Having said that the behaviour sounds so bizarre one kept help wondering if she has some sort of underlying problem herself.

sickofsocalledexperts Tue 27-Nov-12 20:43:21

I would appeal first to the manager's good judgement about what sounds like a vile and threatening piece of behaviour by a colleague. If I were the manager, i would give a verbal warning at least to this charmer! Point out - calmly - that if the colleague were using racist language, there would be hell to pay. Disabilist language is becoming equally offensive: in the US President Obama passed a law as far back as 2010 whereby the term retarded is replaced by intellectual disability.

Look at the outcry there has been recently over comedians such as Ricky Gervais using the words mong and retard. Similar headlines have occurred all over the world and there have been campaigns to get rid of the word, eg by the Special Olympics Committee.

If I met a brick wall with the calm approach, I might refer to the fact tht you are finding your workplace a "hostile environment". This is legal code. Employees have sued employers for allowing a hostile environment to be created in terms of race and gender. Surely a case under the Disability Discrimination Act must be next?

Be careful and measured, but firm.

Brideandgloom Tue 27-Nov-12 21:16:39

Brilliant! Thank you so much for your help. I have had a good read and penned an email to my line manager and asked for her feedback on what she feels she can do to prevent a repeat.

I still feel really upset which is unlike me. I tolerate a lot of things but this issue is not something I feel I can leave.

And honestly, I fucking love you lot. I feel a lot more equipped to go in tomorrow and deal with this. Xx

Corygal Tue 27-Nov-12 21:31:09

She's a throroughly unpleasant woman. I would talk to HR again, and say that you are confident that they will deal with this verbal assault and unacceptable behaviour, discrimation etc etc. Spell out the threats she made.

Then I would say that while you expect to see results soon, if the harrassment continues then you'll be put into a position where you have no choice but to send a grievance, which would not be good news for anybody.

Point out that difficult colleagues get more difficult unless they are dealt with (countless surveys show this) and that you deserve to arrive at your job without wondering if you can make it through the day without being yelled at by an out of control horror.

As an aside, to me this smacks a lot less of discrimination than threatening abuse and unacceptable behaviour. But discrimination is straightforwardly illegal, wh will be easier for HR to deal with if they are wet types, so major on that.

porridgelover Tue 27-Nov-12 21:38:41

Bride, you have had good advice above. Nothing much to add. Except that it sounds as if this woman has an issue and she's using the SN angle to attack you. If it wasn't that, it would be something else...your time-keeping, your weight, your skin colour, whatever.

Will colleague go on record WRT the 'teach her a lesson' remark?

Honestly, try not to let it get to you. Easier said than done.
Bullies are usually weak people looking to 'steal' personal power from others.

Jacksmania Wed 28-Nov-12 14:07:51

Has anything more happened? Do please come back and update and we will help you polish your steel balls some more smile

Bluebirdonmyshoulder Wed 28-Nov-12 16:43:48

Nothing to add to the great advice, just honking for you.

So sorry you had to experience this.

Jacksmania Thu 29-Nov-12 14:59:16

^ honking for you grin

ouryve Sat 01-Dec-12 16:45:18

I don't think some people can be trained not to be obnoxious, unfortunately. sad

TheTimeTravellersWife Sat 01-Dec-12 16:58:50

Sorry to hear that you are having to deal with such an obnoxious, ignorant person (I wouldn't use the word colleague for such a person)
Glad that you have received good advice from MNetters on here.
I would suggest that you make a note of when and what she has said, unpleasant though it is to do, so that you have a record of it.
Her behaviour is bullying and harassment and if it wasn't SN she would use something else to get at you.
Good luck and do let us know how you get on.
Do you have a union who could help you?

Brideandgloom Mon 03-Dec-12 20:13:51

Hi all, sorry I have been a while with an update. The colleague is attending a disciplinary tomorrow. I have been told she is to receive a final warning as she has previous form and she will be told very clearly that under our dignity at work policy she is absolutely not allowed to use disablist terms in any way shape or form.

She is not aware yet tha she will be receiving a warning, my rather indiscreet director gave me an update today.
My manger was going to leave this but my director stepped in on Friday and was very definite that he did not want to leave this at an informal conversation so I have had to give a statement and a couple of people who were present have been spoken to as well to get their version of events.
The atmosphere is not very nice as she sits next to me and is being very nasty, lots of spiteful comments and silly giggling when I walk in the room. I'm hoping tomorrow might shock her into silence.

I'll let you all know how tomorrow turns out. I have to be honest though, despite the support from my director, my managers wet reaction and the childishness of some of my colleagues who should know better is making me feel that I need to be looking for a new job in the new year.

Thak you again for continuing to post. Xx

TheTimeTravellersWife Mon 03-Dec-12 21:34:46

That's good to hear that your employer is taking it seriously, but sorry to hear that you are still having to sit next to her!
I would make a note of her spiteful comments and the giggling and add that to the complaint too.
And surely under circumstances they could at least arrange it so you no longer have to sit near her let alone next to her?!!
I do hope that the disciplinary hearing makes her realise that it is just not acceptable for her to behave in such an obnoxious and offensive manner.
Do let us know how it goes.

mrslaughan Mon 03-Dec-12 21:54:32

Just sending you support - and I can't believe that your company have let this go on. But you should make them aware that it is continuing.
Honks for tomorrow

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