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Colorado University Professor May Be Disciplined for Discriminatory Comments Made Outside of The Workplace

Anderson Barkley LLC July 1, 2020

Employers have to ensure that they do not allow some individuals to create environments that will be conducive to discrimination, otherwise they can be legally responsible for any harm that this causes.

A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder was accused of making a number of social media posts that others found to be discriminatory, racist, and sexist.

Professor Alleges that Non-White Americans Commit Much More Crime and Deserve Racial Profiling

The professor of economics came under scrutiny for a number of offensive posts that were made on his personal facebook account. The remarks were reported to the university administration, and the Colorado democratic party in Boulder County has also gotten involved and condemned the man’s actions.

The first incident involved a comment on a video showing statistics related to people of color being accused of committing crimes at two or three times the rate as their white counterparts. The professor commented on the post and seemed to suggest that non-white Americans commit much more crime than their white counterparts, asking for evidence that the claims in the video were actually correct.

A member of the group that initially made the post asked a follow up question to the professor, trying to determine if he wanted evidence that non-white Americans are somehow less criminal, and he responded “yes.” Some of the people who interacted on the post said that they did not realize that the comments on the post were made by a professor at UC Boulder until a much later time. However, this same group member decided that she should notify the man’s employer. She claimed that his type of thinking could be dangerous for someone who has a position of authority and teaches students every semester.

The Boulder County Democratic Party also reposted the comments made by the professor after this episode, along with various links to his social media pages to draw further attention to the incident. They seemed concerned that he made comments about Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her “hot,” but later implying that she was a dumb bartender whose opinions did not matter. They provided contact information for the university and encouraged people to contact them and notify the school’s administration.

The professor responded by saying that these allegations represent the current form of “cancel culture” in America, rather than a legitimate problem for the university. He admitted to a local news source that the comments he made were in poor taste, but claims that he does not actually hold any sexist or racist beliefs.

A spokesperson for the University said that they are aware of the situation and that they are in the early steps of reviewing what actions, if any, should be taken. They confirmed that the university has a commitment to diversity and discrimination is not tolerated. No formal actions had been taken by the school at the time of the news report.

Laws that Prohibit All Kinds of Discriminatory Behavior in Institutions

The law in both the state of Colorado and various federal statutes requires that all workplaces and schools function as environments that are free of discrimination. This means that all kinds of employees and students should not feel as if they will be threatened or harassed due to issues such as race, gender, national origins, or sexual orientation. Workplaces and schools have an affirmative duty to ensure that these laws are followed, and individuals who violate policies against discrimination can be terminated or subjected to other disciplinary measures.

Is His Speech Outside of The Workplace Protected?

Cases such as this also have to strike a balance between First Amendment protections and maintaining a proper work environment. The professor cannot be disciplined or fired merely for having unpopular beliefs outside of the workplace. A main issue in this case will likely be whether the professor’s words and actions actually create a discriminatory environment in his classes or anywhere in the university. If the school was to terminate him, they would need to show legitimate problems caused by the professor’s words and actions that affect the university environment, rather than political comments that were made on his personal time. These issues have also become more complex in recent times, as some private sector employers seem to merely terminate individuals with unpopular beliefs and political affiliations posted on social media as a precaution and protective measure against bad publicity, even if these words and actions clearly have no bearing on their employment or workplace. Government employers are much more limited in the reasons that they can terminate an employee because they cannot violate any protected rights.

Get Help with Workplace Discrimination

There are attorneys who deal with all kinds of workplace issues such as discrimination, relatiation, wrongful termination, and violations of labor laws. To get assistance from an experienced attorney in the Denver area, contact Anderson Barkley Attorneys at Law.