Dear Evil Skippy: Can Bumper Stickers Be Harassment?

Dear Evil Skippy:

One of my employees complained about another employee’s bumper sticker because of its religious nature.  My first impression was that people’s bumper stickers are their personal business, but the guy does park his car in the company’s lot.  I don’t think the saying is anything bad —  it just says, “In case of Rapture, this car will be empty.”  The complaining employee says she should not be subjected to religious viewpoints as part of her job.  She says the bumper sticker is harassment because it suggests that people who do not share the other employee’s religious beliefs are not going to heaven.  She says that if we do not prohibit such bumper stickers on the lot, she will file a religious harassment claim.  Am I being too quick to reject her claim?  What would you say to the complaining employee?

–  Nervous

Dear Nervous:

I would tell the complaining employee to go ahead and file a complaint if that’s what she wants to do, but she has to shut up at work.

Then I’d tell her that no one has seen the other employee for a few hours and you’re starting to wonder . . .  Could it possibly be?? Look a little scared when you say it.

–  Evil Skippy

Do not under any circumstances attempt to start a Rapture Hoax, at least not at work.

In addition, I would probably reject the employee’s claim.  Bumper stickers are people’s personal business.  Unless a bumper sticker on a parked car in the company’s lot was somehow directed at a particular person – targeting that person – I don’t think an employer should get involved with bumper stickers on parked cars.

I would not, however, allow the display of a bumper sticker with this same message in the workplace itself.

     Of course not.  It would not be on a car, so it would make no sense whatsoever.

That’s not why.  It’s because I think most people know a bumper sticker on a car is personal and not the workplace.  It just takes a moment to walk by the car and it’s easy to ignore.  You have not even started work yet.  Posting a similar message on the bulletin board or in a cubicle would give it a greater presence.  I can understand why an employee would not want to see the message constantly during the work day.  It becomes part of the work environment.

As for the complaining employee, I would ask her if anything is going on other than the bumper sticker.  For all you know, the bumper sticker’s owner might also be saying inappropriate things or doing something else.   If it turns out there is no problem other than the bumper sticker, I’d tell her that she is welcome to file a complaint but you do not believe a bumper sticker that is on a car in the outside parking lot constitutes harassment under company policy.  Of course, I’d first run this by my manager and human resources.

     Cluck, chicken, cluck.

 

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Comments

  1. C.J. says

    Again, I think people are trying to find ways to obtain money for frivilous lawsuits. We are trying to tread on other peoples rights or beliefs by saying it hurts my rights or beliefs. I wished they would just stop! If it isn’t a personal or physical attack leave it alone.

    You can’t hold companies hostage for peoples personal cars, homes or whatever. The person obviously took enough time to stop and read the bumper sticker. Nothing held them hostage to do this. Just keep walking.

  2. Steve says

    Just once, I wish someone, somewhere could get away with issuing a much needed “SLAP!” to a most deserving, frivilously complaining employee! Uh oh, my inside voice got away from me again….my apologies!

  3. Steve R. says

    Follow-up question: I had a co-worker once who taped two Christmas cards up on his bookshelf, very close to his cubicle entrance so they were clearly visible from the hallway. One said, “Wise men STILL seek Him.” The other one said “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” (Some wag added a word to the latter card, so it read “Jesus is STILL the Reason for the Season”.) He left these cards up for months and months. Nobody cared and I don’t think it bothered anybody. But if somebody HAD complained, would he have been obliged to take them down?

  4. Paula says

    Holy Cow!!! That person offended by the bumper sticker needs to get a life. So shall all of us females find someone to file a suit with over the provocative female (what appears to be naked) silhouettes on truck mud flaps. For goodness sake it has nothing to do with me personally so who cares what is on another vehicle. I’m with C.J. if it isn’t a personal attack on me or physical keep on walking and just ignore whatever it is.

  5. Seamus Ruah says

    When I worked in Bothell, someone vandelized (removed) an atheist fish on a car that was parked in the company parking lot. There were security cameras that covered that area of the lot, but security ‘wasn’t interested in getting involved in a war.” The fish was replaced and then removed again twice more…

  6. Archie McPhee says

    We had a guy on our floor that prominently displayed a sign in his cube, “Don’t let Darwin make a monkey out of you.” I found it demeaning — a distraction every time I walked past his cube. I never did follow up with his manager or HR but sometimes I wished that I had. However, I had lots of work to do and complaining takes up so much precious time.

    Reading Evil Skippy takes up precious time too but it’s so worth it.

    Fondly,
    Archie

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