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How you, as a manager, respond to instances of harassment and discrimination sets the tone for your employees. If you don’t take your company’s policies seriously you and let things slide, employees will also not take the policy seriously – which ultimately hurts morale, damages productivity, and opens you and the company to legal and civil penalties.

“It was just a joke.”

Jokes, like any other kind of speech, can hurt, disparage, and harass. It’s not the intention of the joke that matters, but the impact that it has on others.

“Why do we have to be soulless robots? Can’t the PC police lighten up a little?”

Our company wants to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable and do their job. We are following the law and being ethical by supporting our employees. It’s not about political correctness or being soulless – it’s about fairness and tolerance.

“It’s freedom of speech.”

Freedom of speech isn’t absolute. Libel and slander are illegal. Speech that hurts others is unethical. And your company has a legal responsibility to protect employees. The right of people to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination trumps the right of absolute free speech.