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my coworker sent a classist, racist email company-wide after a janitor won our Christmas contest — Ask a Manager

I’ll start with the good news: my spouse passed the bar and has a job. We started receiving Health Insurance through his job, so I started seriously looking for a new job! Gaston retired at the beginning of the year.

I carefully took note of all the suggestions here and rehearsed them at home with my poor husband. I’ve always been on the shy side, so I needed practice, but I did start to challenge Gaston. It didn’t work.

· “What do you mean by that?” and other similar statements were met by explanations about how people with low paying jobs are lazy and entitled and if they wanted more money they would get new jobs.

· “That sounds classist” and other explicit statements were brushed off as this was my first “real” job after college and unlike college the real world isn’t all about safe spaces and political correctness.

· He seemed happy to educate me and to brag about being willing to “speak truth to power” and “take a stand against wokism and cancel culture.” When I asked for specifics, I was assured that as I got older and more experienced I would be able to spot these things and I would get a feel for when things weren’t quite right.

He did say that after sending around the email he was scolded but stood his ground. He was very proud of that and how he was moved around for “taking a stand” in the past. According to Gaston he was able to stand up for people and against virtue signaling because he was going to retire soon and could fight back when others couldn’t. After a week of this a woman I work with pulled me aside and essentially said while she could tell what I was trying to do, he was never going to listen to a woman decades younger than him and if I wanted to help giving him a platform was not the way to do it.

I will say that the company is a big fan for “restorative justice.” That is instead of someone being punished they are supposed to be educated. So, when Gaston made loud comments in the past he was assigned online courses about diversity and inclusion, etc. while on the clock as opposed to disciplined. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a next step after “take course on inclusivity,” except, “move under another manager who can assign more/different courses and hope this time it works.” I don’t know if the company is bad at holding people accountable because they are truly sold on “everyone can change if you help them right” or if they don’t care (and secretly agree with the Gastons) and are using restorative justice as a cover to make it look like they are doing something.

Mostly I want to thank you and your readers for showing me where I worked. I genuinely thought I worked at a great company. When I asked in my last interview before I was hired they said they were a very diverse company and they do have a lot of policies on the books that are great. For example, there are rooms set aside for pumping and for daily prayer, different desks and computers for people to choose from depending on their physical needs, the office is decorated for pride month, black history, etc. While all those things were rolled out relatively recently, within the last five years, I was convinced I worked at a wonderful company with a few loud outliers. So when there was a lack of pushback to Gaston and moving him around instead of dealing with him I thought maybe I was overreacting or oversensitive. When I asked around and was told I would be labeled a troublemaker for making a fuss about him I thought I was the problem. I guess I am still reconciling, “we decorate for pride month but don’t slap down classist emails.”

On that final note, do your readers have any suggestions on how to find a good company to work for? I’m worried that my sense of normalcy has been damaged and that even if there are great policies on the surface the culture underneath might be rotten or with spineless upper management.


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