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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Respect in the Workplace

Either a sign of the times or a sad commentary on our fast deterioration social mores, this workshop is mandated every three years.

Dr. Claudia Koblenz-Sulkov, OSP, introduced Michelle Phillips, Esq., a partner in the law firm of Jackson & Lewis and has been to Maryknoll many times. She began by emphasizing that in the eyes of the employees, when they see us, they see Maryknoll. Even if we are not their supervisor or co-worker, what we do and say impacts them and how their view their work. We started the session be each man introducing himself, what he does or did, and how he thinks Maryknollers view him (a potentially funny, embarrassing or explosive dynamic which, alas, would not be appropriate for blogging. A future book, maybe, but not blogging.)

For whatever reason, this process didn't get past the second Maryknoller (of 26 attending. I'd tell you who it was but I don't want to be brought up on harassment charges) when a discussion followed concerning the society policy that Maryknollers not give gratuities or financial gifts to employees, an issue of hot debate in recent months as many men like to give small tokens of appreciation to housekeeping staff. This policy arose so as not to discriminate against those employees whose jobs do not have regular contact with members and who therefore do not get gifts at Christmas from Maryknollers. This also being Chinese New Year, it was pointed out that giving monetary gifts in red envelopes is an expected part of the holiday.

Anyway, in brief, the following areas may not be probed during interviews with prospective employees or are considered protected categories: gender, national origin, religion, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, genetic history, or medical conditions beyond those which might impact job performance.

Any speech or action that uses the above in a demeaning manner can be construed as harassment.

Sometimes an employee may approach a Maryknoller to intercede with a supervisor about a problem in the workplace, making us perfect pawns. At the same time, depending on the information divulged, we may be "mandated reporters" (for example, with cases of child or elder abuse.)

If we overhear discriminatory words and do nothing, we are "aiders and abetters" and can be sued if we fail to act. At the very least we should bring it to the attention of a superior and HR who are in a position to do something about it.

Employers (and by extention, all Maryknollers) must make all reasonable accommodation to the sensibilities of both employees, guests and visitors. The question arises that Maryknollers are expected to be responsible for implementing Society policies over which we had no say and many times about which we may know nothing.

Note to all Maryknollers overseas who are returning to the States after many year's absence: it ain't the same country you left!

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