Revenge for descpicable boss?
November 2, 2005 2:21 PM   Subscribe

My boss made some derogatory comments about Jewish people. I objected. As a result of my objection, I am now "laid off"...

To make a long story longer, the events went something like this:

My boss was reading an e-mail from a customer. This particular customer had already contacted us several times regarding the pricing of our products. Upon reading this e-mail...

Boss: “Hmm. He must be Jewish.”

(I sat in stunned silence for a moment.)

Me: “Why did you say that he must be Jewish?”

Boss: “Oh, because that’s how Jewish people are. They will always try to get the best price. They will always try to get some special discount from you.”

Me: “Don’t you think that’s a little bit racist?”

Boss: “No, that can’t be racist. That’s a fact.”

Me: “A fact?! I think you mean that’s your opinion. That’s certainly not a fact.”

Boss: “No, that’s a fact. My friend told me that you have to watch out for Jewish customers because they will always try to get a special price, to pay the least amount possible.”

Me: "Well, that’s just your opinion. That’s certainly not a fact because not all Jewish people are like that."

Boss: “No! It’s just like Korean people. Korean people are the same way. Everybody knows that they are like this.”

Me: "You know what? You’re really offending me so I think we should just not talk about this anymore.”

I thought my boss would apologize to me after I had indicated that he had offended me. We had previously had a very friendly relationship. I barely saw him for the rest of that day and the next day was very awkward. He seemed uncomfortable in my presence.

The following day (two days after the incident) I was informed that I was being “laid off.” The reason given for this lay off was poor company performance.

Prior to this meeting there had never been any indication that the company was performing poorly or that my job was in danger. In fact, for the previous two weeks he and I had been in talks regarding new responsibilities that I was poised to undertake at the beginning of 2006. It was essentially a promotion and we had planned for him to begin training me right away.

Anyway, I am now unemployed. I've contacted the ACLU, the EEOC, the Human Rights Commission for my state, and a couple private attorneys. None of the organizations can help me because my former employer was a very small company and doesn't meet the requisite 6 employees to file suit. The private attorneys say my case will just cost me a ton of money (that I don't have) and will be extremely difficult to prove because I don't have any witnesses, evidence, etc.

I really feel that I was wronged for speaking out. I felt that staying silent would be the wrong thing to do and I don't regret it at all even though I essentially lost my job over it.

But what can I do now? I don't want him (or others like him) to be able to get away with this kind of behavior. Have I run the gamut of feasible options?

(And yes, I am aware that one cannot receive "real" legal advice on Metafilter.)
posted by crapulent to Law & Government (63 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a letter stating the reasons for your dismissal? Have you contacted the state labor board? You feel you were dismissed unfairly, so you can probably challenge it.

If your boss is citing "poor performance", request copies of your evaluations, or attendence record, or...

Obviously, this doesn't address the direct human rights/racism issue of the whole situation, but going through the labor board might at least cause some hassle.
posted by luneray at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2005

Does this company face the public? A letter to the op-ed page of your local paper might shine the light of embarrassment down upon him.

Aside from that, there isn't really that much you can do, its not illegal to be an intolerant, racist wanker. Yet.

Its obnoxious when people try to make their racist opinions some form of fact. Kudos to you for standing up and registering your complaint.
posted by fenriq at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2005

You might get the same response you did from the ACLU, et al, but I suggest you contact the closest regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.
posted by arco at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2005

Rats, I just realized the reason was "poor company performance"...sorry about that.
posted by luneray at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2005

Best answer: Maybe you could call your local Jewish Congress. Someone there would be better informed and may have experience with this issue. When I contacted them after seeing some grafitti on a wall a few years ago, they provide all sorts of assistance and actually cleaned it up and made a police report. So perhaps they can help you out, even if employment and grafitti are not exactly the same thing.
posted by acoutu at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2005

bummer. what do you do? where are you? maybe someone here can point you towards an opening...?

revenge-wise, i think your legal options are pretty much closed off. personally, i'd suggest talking to the guy again - perhaps there's an after work bar he hangs out or similar - just to check what happened. be polite and friendly, but ask directly what it was about. could be that the shit hit the fan that evening for some reason. coincidences happen.

but if that chat checked out my suspicions i'd be sorely tempted to take the law into my own hands. but that's just me.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:32 PM on November 2, 2005

You have no remedies. You've learned a life lesson: telling your boss that he's offensive is a career-limiting move, even if it's true. Accept it and move on. Don't list this guy as a reference in your job hunt.
posted by jellicle at 2:32 PM on November 2, 2005

It may be that your boss went to his boss and made a case for your removal, without revealing the real reason. Perhaps you should send a letter to the President stating (nicely) the situation and how you think it was unfair. Someone above your boss may not know the real reason.
posted by qwip at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2005

Response by poster: qwip: He is the president.

andrew cooke: Thanks. I'm in St. Louis, if anyone is interested.
posted by crapulent at 2:43 PM on November 2, 2005

I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you, but I am aghast and you have my sympathies.
posted by Specklet at 2:47 PM on November 2, 2005

Assuming you were employed long enough, run, don't walk to your nearest state labor office and file for unemployment benefits.

Be sure to give 'poor company performance' as the reason which you were fired, and contest it. That mean's you will have a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Hire a lawyer to represent you at that hearing. Be sure to find one with experience doing this.

At the hearing, present the scenario as you have done here, get a witness to appear, or offer to appear to testify your version of the incident is correct.

When, I assume, when, the hearing is found in your favor at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your dismissal was without cause, i.e. not for poor performance.

And, you get unemployment benefits while you search for your next job.

ps. what I describe worked for me in NY, dunno about St. Louis.
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 2:52 PM on November 2, 2005

Hey man, not that it's much help, but I think what you did was awesome. I usually avoid conflict with people like this, but in this case would have found it nearly impossible not to comment. You did the right thing. He's a fucking tool. I second contacting someone in the Jewish community. If it were me, I'd write a follow-up letter to your boss in the near future letting him know you sent an account of your exchange to the local paper and all the synagogues in a fifty mile radius. You'll find a job a lot faster than he'll outrun the taint of his prejudices and their effect on his bottom-line. At the very least you can give him a few weeks of shitty sleep wondering what fallout his stupidity will have on his mortgage payments.

And as a Jew, I tell you this: if I knew a merchant in my city was an anti-semite, I'd travel three states away to avoid business with them, and I'm one of the easy-going ones.
posted by docpops at 2:52 PM on November 2, 2005

Second that. Thanks for standing up for decency.
posted by words1 at 2:58 PM on November 2, 2005

Don't publicize it yet. That's the atom bomb; keep it in your pocket awhile. Talk to local Jewish leaders, and get their input. If you're interested in getting your job back, that might be achieved with a simple closed-door meeting. If that's not your goal, the next step becomes simple: You need to decide specifically what is your goal before deciding on a course of action.
posted by cribcage at 3:03 PM on November 2, 2005

Perhaps you could post the name of the company. That way others would have the opportunity to avoid doing business with it, making the "poor company performance" excuse a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Beyond that, get yer unemployment as others have suggested, and move on. You don't want to go back to work there.
posted by adamrice at 3:06 PM on November 2, 2005

Does this company face the public? A letter to the op-ed page of your local paper might shine the light of embarrassment down upon him.

Or a website. Put your story up somewhere. Get it as high as possible in search engine rankings for the company name. If you know of any of the company's clients, or can find out (by legal means), write them and tell them your story.

Note: you face the risk of a libel lawsuit from the company if you do this. Theoretically, you should win any such suit, since truth is an absolute defense against libel. However, a) there's no guarantee that what ought to happen, according to theory, is what actually will happen in the suit; b) even if the suit is baseless, it could be a pain to defend against it. If you decide to do this, it might be wise to find and consult a lawyer who would defend you against a libel suit before you do any of the above.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:06 PM on November 2, 2005

P.S. Good for you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:07 PM on November 2, 2005

Consider the layoff a blessing because it's probably not a place you'd want to work at.
posted by gyc at 3:13 PM on November 2, 2005

I second what NorthCoastCafe said.
In addition to collecting unemployment benefits, partially funded by taxes you pay as well as your employer, the investigation by your state's employment commission will cost your employer time and money. That should make him think twice about firing someone frivolously. Perhaps more importantly, it will deter future offensive comments.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2005

what year is this again?

at any rate, good luck with whatever route you choose. I personally would opt for the "biggest stink imaginable" course.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2005

Wow, that's awful. I am sorry this happened to you. I would just second everyone's advice to go public. What do you have to lose? A solid editorial to the paper should put things in gear.
posted by xmutex at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2005

Crapulent, I'm sorry to hear you lost your job. You might be interested in looking at St. Louis Employment Law attorney Tim Willoughby's discussion of wrongful termination. IANAL, but do to the at-will employment nature of your state, and your lack of a "proper and effective" complaint, your entitlement to legal recourse is likely limited.
posted by fourstar at 3:29 PM on November 2, 2005

What do you have to lose?

The ability to ever find a job in that town or industry again, depending on how obnoxious the stink you make is. This MAY go without saying, but I'd keep it civil and simply very righteously indignant.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:59 PM on November 2, 2005

I would just second everyone's advice to go public. What do you have to lose? A solid editorial to the paper should put things in gear.

Following up on DevilsAdvocate's point on libel, the risk of a lawsuit will likely keep any newspaper from publishing an editorial with your accusations unless you have some sort of independent facts or witnesses or court rulings to back you up. Without that, they have no way of knowing whether you're an honest worker seeking justice or whether you're just some guy who has an axe to grind. And by publishing your complaints, they face the same legal risks that you do.

But you can shout to the high heavens on your own Web site.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 4:04 PM on November 2, 2005

Please, for those who don't seem to know the difference: crapulent says he was laid off. He was not fired. He does not have to contest anything to collect unemployment benefits. He does not need a lawyer to collect unemployment benefits. All he's got to do is go to the unemployment office and file.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:07 PM on November 2, 2005

Best answer: I'm a law student at Washington University (in St. Louis, damnit). One of our claims to fame is having excellent clinical education. (Law clinics allow students working with a supervising attorney to provide extremely inexpensive or free legal services to clients that would otherwise be unable to obtain such services).

Anyway, one of the clinics is the Civil Rights and Community Justice clinic, which works with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission on cases like these.

The faculty in charge are quite passionate about these sorts of issues, so I feel they might well take up your case.

Also, Wash U has a substantial Jewish student population, so it's quite possible that there might be a student in the clinic who would take a personal interest in your case, despite its admitted weaknesses (lack of direct evidence).

Good luck.
posted by jedicus at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2005

Yeah, it looks like the ADL is what you want to try next. Wow, that's just cartoonishly racist. That's "a very special Night Court" racist.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:17 PM on November 2, 2005

None of the organizations can help me because my former employer was a very small company and doesn't meet the requisite 6 employees to file suit.

Can someone explain this part? I'm not in the USA.

I agree that you should contest the "poor company performance" part. That kind of thing, surely, is a matter of record? Racism aside, you believe you've been laid off unfairly.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:28 PM on November 2, 2005

I'm also in St. Screwy. Call Bill McClellan at the Post. He's always interested in such stories.
posted by notsnot at 4:41 PM on November 2, 2005

Federal, and many state, anti-discrimination laws only apply to employers with at least six employees, AmbroseChapel. Basically, mom and pop shops can continue to run the business they way they always have, even if that means they're racist bigots.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:42 PM on November 2, 2005

qwip: He is the president.

Oh, in that case you're out of luck. The other way to look at this is that you probably wouldn't want to be working for a jerk like that anyway and now you know he's that kind of jerk.

Not much solace in that, but there you go.
posted by qwip at 4:48 PM on November 2, 2005

I'm curious about one thing... Assume the company was large enough to be covered by anti-discrimination laws. Would this actually be illegal? Was anyone actually discriminated against based on their religion or race?
posted by smackfu at 4:49 PM on November 2, 2005

I still don't see what you want to get out of this. Do you want to work for him again? I wouldn't. Do you want him punished somehow? How, exactly? Personally, even if I hadn't said anything, I would've started looking for a new job that night.
posted by sohcahtoa at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2005

Why is no one asking the obvious question here: was the customer indeed Jewish?

(Just kidding. Good job, you did the right thing.)
posted by Asparagirl at 4:53 PM on November 2, 2005

I admire you for acting in such a courageous and right way when you could have remained silent and still be employed. I hope with the above advice re legal representation you are compensated in some way. Whatever, you did it and you did the honorable thing. Modern hero.
posted by madstop1 at 6:18 PM on November 2, 2005

I got fired once from a very small company because my new manager, who also happened to be one of the principals of the company, emailed me the text of a "speech" by Charlton Heston (wherein Heston espoused many ham-handedly conservative principles, such as that homosexuals are OK if they just shut up about it), and I asked my manager if he had sent me that in order to purposefully offend me. Within a couple of days I was fired for "poor performance", even though I had been doing OK for a few months prior to the change in managers. All I had was a verbal comment from the HR lady that this guy had trouble with women working in non-traditional jobs (the other gals there were either testers, HR, or secretaries; I was the only female techie). Obviously, there was no way I was going to be able to sue, and the company didn't have any public presence, and I didn't have a leg to stand on. So basically I just took my chips and moved on, glad that I didn't have to work for THAT asshole.

On the other hand, getting fired can really screw with your ego, and I'm still touchy about it after all of these years, even though nothing was really my fault. I don't know what to say except I'm glad you posted this story; [I know this is a cliche, but] it makes me realize I'm not the only one.

My advice would be to just move on, you *can* get unemployment, and this won't follow you unless you let it, although it will still leave a bad taste in your mouth whenever you think about it.
posted by matildaben at 6:42 PM on November 2, 2005

Go see the EEOC, for chrissakes!
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:08 PM on November 2, 2005

I don't know if this will help you,but you could figure out if he hires anyone to replace you. This will at least show how much of a lie the "laid off due to poor company poor performance" excuse was.
posted by cushie at 7:43 PM on November 2, 2005

That wasn't discrimination. It wasn't even a prejudice.
That was just a stereotype. I don't know American law, but in Canada, discrimination is against the law, and stereotypes and prejudices are perfectly legal. So a human rights complaint is not appropriate.

At best, you could sue him for wrongful dismissal. Talk to a lawyer, if you want to pursue it.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:30 PM on November 2, 2005

(And good luck.)
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:32 PM on November 2, 2005

>Assume the company was large enough to be covered by anti-discrimination laws. Would this actually be illegal? Was anyone actually discriminated against based on their religion or race?

That's the point. If you are fired because you are black, female, or Jewish, or all three, you have recourse. If you are fired because you objected to a boss who disparaged blacks, females, or Jews, you have little or none - through the legal system.

But I would follow up with the legal clinic people, as jedicus mentioned. They may well be willing to take on a case that is low on technical merit but high on PR buzz.
posted by megatherium at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2005

You did the right thing, good for you. You have drawn your line in the sand.
I don't think you have anything to gain by taking this any further, since you don't have any direct evidence. If you think you could get other (former) employees to also come forward with other, similar incidents then you might be able to go somewhere, but where? I would just give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back and look for another job.
posted by nprigoda at 8:42 PM on November 2, 2005

You might try calling a local Temple and talking to the Rabbi. He or she might be able to send you in the right direction. Or, if you have a local TV reporter who does "investigative reporting", you might give him/her a call and see if they have any interest in the story.

Kudos to you for standing up to a bigot. Most folks would have let the comments go.
posted by Serena at 8:45 PM on November 2, 2005

What is the problem here? Did you really like your job or something? I think you'd be relieved for not having such a stupid boss anymore. Given the chance, would you really want to work for this guy again? Yes you were wronged but, so what? People are wronged every second in much more dramatic ways. And you're extremely lucky: you're strong enough to rise above this and your dignity/honor/self-respect is still in tact. This isn't such a bad thing. Some would say the transaction went in your favor and it's your boss, as he'll continue to be lost in his little own racist world, who got the raw end of the deal.

Just. Move. On. Write about in your journal or, if you don't have a journal, write a letter to yourself. This is what happened, this is what I did, these are the lessons I learned. Finis. Then forget about it. Don't let yourself dwell on it. It's not worth any more of your time. The only problem you have to deal with now is finding a new job. To that extent, you should start thinking about how you'll deal with the lack of references etc. In this regard, perhaps, a letter from the ACLU might help.

BTW, as a point of order, your boss committed no crime. Stupidity, unfortunately, is permitted by the law. If you had conclusive evidence that he was discriminating against Jewish customers and treating them differently because of their religion that would be one thing. But, from your description, it seems your boss has a set of stupid beliefs he has to cling to in order to understand the world and this is is A-OK in the USA. It'll be impossible to prove conclusively but even if he did fire you over this incident then understand that's probably well within his rights as your employer.
posted by nixerman at 8:52 PM on November 2, 2005

I think you should get a job with a Jewish-owned competitor. No, seriously. :)
posted by anthill at 9:03 PM on November 2, 2005

(You know, every single Korean I've met (including my lovely wife) in the nearly 8 years I've lived in Korea has been that way. I wouldn't say all of them because that's an unprovable assertion, though, of course. I'm not sure how racist it is to comment on it (in more appropriate situations, perhaps. It's not like frugality and haggling are a bad thing, and suggesting it is a cultural norm to do so is a racist proposition. Comedians do it all the time, so perhaps it's a situational thing.

That said, I haven't known many jewish folks, and am only aware of the (racist?) stereotype in that context.

Regardless, the poster's boss was clearly in the wrong as far as the layoff went, and a massive idiot to be talking that way in what is supposed to be a professional environment. Racist, though? I'm not entirely sure.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:01 PM on November 2, 2005

Missouri is an at-will state which means the employer can basically fire you for any reason he feels like AS LONG AS that is not discrimination, retaliation or wrongful termination. They must disclose in a service letter as to why you are being terminated.

You could sue and you could be successful if you can find someone to atest to the fact that he's been anti-semitic before. I think it'd be too big of a deal but the ADL seems like a way to go. A tiny company like the one you work for doesn't really have the assets to sue for.

PS Missouri is weird, I've lived here my whole life. You have incredibly cosmipolitan people that could have come from the coasts and seem normal and then you run into people like this. Stark reminders that we are still in the midwest.
posted by geoff. at 10:27 PM on November 2, 2005

A lawyer told me once that wrongful dismissal cases are very tough, unless you're in a senior position pulling down a long salary, will have an incredibly tough time finding another job, and had a long tenure at the company.

That being said, I once managed to take a company to small claims court over wrongful dismissal and got them to settle for a month's salary. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing...and I still got to collect unemployment insurance. It was mostly to prove that I was right and provide for some embarassment of the firm. I was pleased with the outcome. (I hadn't actually started working for the company -- they just cancelled the contract the day before I was due to start, due to a loss of funding, but the problem was that they refused to tell me anything and strung me along for a month. I was cheesed, since they'd lured me away from a good job.)
posted by acoutu at 10:46 PM on November 2, 2005

Does anybody know which races do not like to get a discounted price and enjoy paying more than they have to? I have some things I'd like to sell them.

I think you're old boss may be a bit of an idiot, but not necessarily a racist. I think everyone will agree that haggling is just a way of life in many cultures, and anyone from those cultures will almost always try to haggle for the best price. Why he would single out the Jewish or Korean cultures is a little beyond me, but in his mind this issue was an established fact, and you disputed this fact.

Your dramatic disputing of his grand cultural knowledge probably confused him more than anything and he just lost that warm fuzzy feeling he was developing about you. It was probably your tone of voice more than your viewpoint that led to the "poor company performance." Your not the team player he thought you were.

Apply for unemployment, look for a new job. Your heart is in the right place, but I think you could have let this one slide.
posted by Yorrick at 10:58 PM on November 2, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you to all the people who offered heart-felt and thoughtful comments or suggestions. I truly appreciate it.

For the record:

I do not want my job back.

I wasn't fired. I was laid off.

I don't intend to charge my former boss with racism (against me or Jewish people.) My legal approach would be wrongful termination/retaliation. I objected to his comments (whether you want to call them racist, stereotyped, prejudiced...whatever) and I was laid off as a result of that objection. I don't fancy myself a martyr in any way. Yes, I well know that this is a small injustice on the grand scale of injustices. But that is precisely what is so frightening about it; that one can lose a job simply by voicing concern about comments that must, at the very least, be considered offensive.

Nixerman: Comments like yours (the pithy, arrogant, juvenile, over-achieving kind) are precisely the reason why I rarely visit MetaFilter anymore. You're an ass.
posted by crapulent at 12:44 AM on November 3, 2005

crapulent, reading over my comment I can understand your complaint. The tone of the comment does make it come off the wrong way. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you or belittle you or your situation. All I meant to say is that I really don't think this battle is worth fighting. You did the right thing and you got screwed. It happens. The world sucks. But taking your boss to court isn't going to change anything. This kind of shit will still happen to good guys like you. Moving on and finding another job is now the best use of your time. Learn from this, yes, but don't invest any more serious time in it. You have a story for your kids and sooner or later you'll have another job, one with a boss you can respect and learn from.
posted by nixerman at 4:52 AM on November 3, 2005

crapulent, I'm not sure if this is helpful or not, but it occurs to me that if your former boss were to find himself sued by you and a group like the ADL, it might actually reinforce his views, rather than help to change them.

Which is not to say that I don't think you'd be a hero for going after a wrongful termination suit, but its something to think about.
posted by anastasiav at 5:48 AM on November 3, 2005

Although the "Write an editorial" suggestions are clearly well-meant, I'm going to have to politely disagree with them.

I have very limited journalistic experience (roughly a year working for a magazine), but it's going to be very tricky constructing a publishable editorial about this. That's because, in addition to the legal issues that TBone points out, this just doesn't strike me as the kind of thing that a newspaper/magazine would be interested in.

The kinds of stuff you see on editorial pages are things of public interest. These either involve (a) subjects of inherent public concern, or (b) personal subjects that the writer has managed to tie into a universal concern.

If your ex-boss isn't a local official or a major factor in your local economy, (a) isn't going to apply. Theoretically speaking, you could do (b)--but that would involve treating the incident as a launching point for a column, rather than as the point of the column, if that makes sense. (Think of a column by Erma Bombeck, or Dave Barry, or Russell Baker for three different examples of that.) I have the feeling you are too angry (and justifiably so) to get that kind of distance on the subject right now. And if you did write a column which had that kind of distance, the publisher would probably insist on you omitting your employer's name, for the reasons that TBone mentioned.

My apologies for being discouraging. On the plus side, while there are plenty of people who are opposed to discrimination, you are now part of a proud and small group that has actually taken a stand against it that involved personal sacrifice. I hope you find some real satisfaction in that, even if you end up not getting the satisfaction of seeing your bigoted ex-boss suffer the consequences.
posted by yankeefog at 6:54 AM on November 3, 2005

But that is precisely what is so frightening about it; that one can lose a job simply by voicing concern about comments that must, at the very least, be considered offensive.

I haven't jumped in because I'd just be repeating what everyone else is saying, that you did the right thing but shouldn't try to take legal action (I'm pretty sure you'd have zero chance of succeeding), but I just want to point out that there shouldn't be anything "frightening" about that fact, any more than there is about the law of gravity. You drop a rock on your foot, you get hurt; you piss off your boss, you get fired. I hope I would have had the guts to do what you did, but I would have fully expected to lose my job as a result. I've been fired/laid off a number of times in my checkered career; it's no fun, but so far it's always led to something better. Move on (with an enhanced sense of reality) and be proud of yourself. You did good.
posted by languagehat at 7:48 AM on November 3, 2005

Oh, and as for what stavros said: just about everybody I met in Taiwan was full of anti-Semitic stereotypes too. It puzzled and infuriated me, and I wound up using one of my English classes as a little consciousness-raising session ("Now, kids, how do you feel when people say mean things about Chinese people? Well, that's what you're doing!"). Fortunately, my students couldn't fire me, but I don't think they resented it; in fact, some of them seemed to actually get a clue.

(My girlfriend at the time was Jewish, and she had to go to meetings where Chinese executives would make casual remarks about Jews being greedy, running the world, etc.; sometimes she'd say sweetly "By the way, I'm Jewish," sometimes she would just swallow it and fume when she got home. I still can't figure it out—hardly any of those people had ever met a Jew, knowingly anyway; where did they pick up this shit?)
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on November 3, 2005

you piss off your boss, you get fired

I don't agree with this. Unless you have the kind of boss that routinely replaces everyone who doesn't agree with every word that drops from their holy mouth, of course.

If crapulent had called the boss a raving asshole, gone into hysterics, or otherwise done something inappropriate, sure, it'd be a good way to get fired. But the way the situation was laid out is within the bounds of professional behavior. Surely the boss knows that insulting people based on their ethnicity is offensive to some.

Crapulent, are you sure you weren't being baited because he wanted to fire you for some other reason?
posted by desuetude at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2005

you piss off your boss, you get fired

I don't agree with this. Unless you have the kind of boss that routinely replaces everyone who doesn't agree with every word that drops from their holy mouth, of course.

I think languagehat's point was not that one must never have conflict with the boss but that if you work for others, your employment continues at their discretion. Some of them will be reasonable people and others will be racist cockbags. In the vast majority of cases they can choose to fire you on a whim.

Getting worked up over it is about as productive as swearing at the tides. Use it as motivation to become self-employed if you like, but it's worth knowing that your job is likely not as secure as you want to think and your legal protections are much fewer than almost everyone thinks.
posted by phearlez at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2005

It sounds to me like you've contacted the correct people to try and pursue this through the appropriate legal channels and come up empty.

Beyond that, I say fuck him. Life is too short to get caught up in this; the negative energy around your former boss is a trap and it's pulling you in. Don't let it.

Success is the best revenge: go get your next job, work hard, have a nice glass of wine, some enthusiastic sex, have a good life.
posted by deanj at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2005

And don't forget to tell us the company name, so that we might avoid ever supporting the schmuck.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2005

I think languagehat's point was not that one must never have conflict with the boss but that if you work for others, your employment continues at their discretion.

Exactly. I didn't mean to imply it was as automatic as gravity, just that it's not something to be surprised (much less horrified) at. Ever since the first time I lost a job (in my 20s), I've always looked at each day of a job as potentially the last. (Come to think of it, I did the same thing in grad school, which kept me from being as psychotic as most of my fellow students.) Remember, there's always something interesting around the next bend in the road!
posted by languagehat at 3:14 PM on November 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all! The company's name is Lamda Biotech and they make biotechnology products for researchers (not a real huge market).

Thanks for the apology Nixerman.
posted by crapulent at 4:33 PM on November 3, 2005

Well, you can be damned sure I'm striking them off the list when it comes to my proteinase supplies. I'm gonna order from Finnzymes. Besides, they throw in a sexy Finn with every order.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 PM on November 3, 2005

Since the question has pretty much been answered, I thought I'd post a quick anecdote about something similar when I was working at a software company a few years ago.

One Monday morning I saw "Kathy", the CEO's administrative assistant, walk in and pass my desk. She'd been hired about a month prior.

Apparently, she went to her cube and as the CEO came in he off-handedly asked her "Hey, have a good weekend?". She replied "Yeah, we bought a oriental rug. The guy wanted $X but we jew'ed him down to $Y."

I understand that in the awkward silence that followed she realized that "Oh yeah, the CEO -- the man I'm talking to -- is Jewish."

A few minutes later, the CEO was in his office and Kathy was walking out with her things.

(I had never heard the term -- my cube-neighbor told me what it meant.)
posted by blueberry at 3:44 AM on November 4, 2005

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