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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Counselor at Law
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Experience:  Attorney experienced in numerous areas of law.
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My question has to do with potential race or discrimination

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My question has to do with potential race or discrimination comments made at the workplace. I am a male, and live and work in Ohio as a middle manager at a manufacturing plant for a Fortune 500 company. I was talking with an hourly employee on the manufacturing floor and she commented to me with the warm weather coming up, can the company put blow up swimming pools in our break areas - she was joking. I laughed and said jokingly, maybe, who knows, I've been to one of our customers, Nissan, and they have ping pong tables in their break rooms. Next I said, "Those Japanesse like their ping pong." Did I say anything wrong that could be used against me by our company or anyone else? I don't know by heart our company policy on comments like this, but I assume the policy mimicks whatever the law is. The person I was talking to did not express that they were offended by this comment, but who knows. We are a union facility, so maybe someone could try to make something of it.

Hello there:


it wasn't the smartest comment in the world, but it is not like you said anything bad about anyone. What is wrong with liking ping pong? :) I should also point out that ping pong is popular in Japan; if you said "those Americans sure like their football", there would be nothing to be offended about--you were stating a fact that in no way perpetuates a negative stereotype.


If you were disciplined by this comment alone, it would definitely be overkill. If your employment was compromised by this comment alone, you would arguably have a wrongful termination suit. I really would not worry about it.


Let me know if I may be of further assistance. Thank you.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your response. That's pretty much what I thought too. I had not categorized the "Japanese" in a negative light. I was only making an observation in my opinion (really, a bad attempt at a joke), but I don't know the law and how it applies to comments made about one ethnic group or nationality, if the comment has to be one of a negative stereotype like you said (but then what's the definition of negative? - it can be subjective), or if it just means you can't make comments in general about one particular group and assume they are a certain way - whether it's bad or good. I had thought of the american football thing too. On the other hand, if I had said something like "Those blacks sure like their watermelon" (which I would never say, because that is clearly in my mind a no-no), what is the difference between that and the Japanese and ping pong comment? I won't beat this to death too much, but if you can answer the above, I'd be interested in knowing. In the end, it is a teaching moment for me, that I will learn from going forward. Thank you.

Nobody likes to be categorized, and there is a degree of subjectivity to the offensiveness of a categorization--which is why the comment was not a smart one. Still, I doubt that you meant that all Japanese like ping pong, but it is popular in that culture (as evidenced by the proliferation of ping pong tables at Nissan Japan).


But still, under the worst case scenario, no laws were broken unless you have created a climate or culture of harassment, fear or intimidation among your subordinates and any response from your union facility would need to be proportional.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
One last question, I noticed in your last response, you assumed the ping pong tables I was referring to were at a Nissan location in Japan. That is not the case. The ping pong tables I was referring to were at a Nissan location in the USA in Tennessee. Does that make any difference to the implications?
Absolutely not. No change.

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