employee made a homophobic remark during job interview

A reader writes:

I went to an interview today at a very small insurance company. Everything was going great until I spent some time with one of the account managers I was going to be working with. She made a comment about her daughter playing softball and went on to say “but she’s not a dyke or anything.”  This completely turned me off to the company, as I myself am gay.

I believe the company will be sending me a written offer in the next day or so, and I don’t know what reason I should give for turning down their offer. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to burn a bridge, as my field is a very close-knit community. Do I just tell them for “personal reasons” I decline their offer?

If I were the manager, I would really, really want to know that this happened, so I urge you to tell them. At a minimum, you could say, “One of the people I spoke with gave me the impression the company isn’t very gay-friendly.”

It’s probably also worth considering that this one staff member may not be representative of the rest of the company. If you’d have otherwise wanted to accept the offer, it might be worth asking how gay-friendly the company is. If they sound uncomfortable or taken aback, you’ll have a clearer answer. If they tell you it’s a gay-friendly environment and sound credible, at that point you could say, “The reason I asked is because someone I spoke with while I was interviewing made a remark about gay people.” See how they respond to that.

What other thoughts do people have on how to approach this?

{ 87 comments… read them below }

  1. Kate*

    I know you don’t normally do this, but I would be very interested to hear what this person does do, and how the company responds.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree! OP, please let us know how this goes.

      (And I would like EVERYONE to write in with updates on how their situations turn out. I do those “where are they now” updates at the end of the year, but they’re never comprehensive. So update us!)

  2. Anonymous*

    I have to say if someone said that as a side remark it does reflect the kind of culture they’re working in. Obviously they think it’s ok to stereotype and make it seem as though they have to cover up for their daughter! I would not want to work there at all! I think AAM has a good point in bringing it up. We are a culture so obsessed with gender and someone’s sexuality and it’s about time to stop that by educating others. OP- I really think you should say why!! This is 2011 for crying out loud. When will the ignorance stop? You’d be starting a trend and making people really think about their actions and behaviors and how they affect other people!

    1. Lizzie*

      I kind of disagree. While it does show the guy is uncomfortable with gay people, it doesn’t mean the company is. He might have said that then thought oh crap! I should have never said that in an interview, hoping you hadn’t noticed. For all we know, his daughter is gay, and he just doesn’t want anyone to know. Hence, why he felt the immediate need to overcompensate. Nonetheless, it was a rude remark for sure. But give the company a chance.

  3. Slaten*

    Guess you don’t really need a job if you’re going to use that as an excuse to not accept a position.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, plenty of job-seekers are already employed and thus don’t “need” a new job. They’re in a very good position to turn down jobs that seem like they’re not the right fit, and there’s no reason to disparage that.

      But that aside, this seems like a damn good reason to turn down a job to me, if indeed it’s representative of the culture there. I wouldn’t want a job where people were going to make hostile comments about the gender of the people I date/love/marry. I also wouldn’t to work somewhere that would look down on me for being Jewish or a woman or whatever.

    2. An Ally*

      Actually, no. No one deserves to work in an abusive or unsafe environment. No one. The OP is absolutely right to question whether this is a place they really want to work. I agree that it’s important to tell them why. However the OP may not be out-so I’d suggest using language like, “based on some of the comments made by staff it seemed like this wasn’t going to be an inclusive or welcoming environment,” and talking more generally about fit. And, to pre-empt: whether or not the OP is out doesn’t make a difference. Even if the employee didn’t know the OP is gay, still so so not okay. The OP might want to check out some of the resources at outforwork.com if they haven’t already.

      On another note, AAM, really love your work-just wish you were a little gentler on college career counselors; I know I try to be a good one! (and typically my advice is very similar to yours.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I definitely know there are some good college career counselors out there! But I’m not thrilled with the industry as a whole and would love to see it step back and reassess if it’s serving students well and how it might do better!

      2. Elizabeth*

        “Even if the employee didn’t know the OP is gay, still so not okay.”

        I definitely agree. I’m straight, and I would think twice about a job if an interviewer made a homophobic comment during the interview. Even if I didn’t care about whether it was a hostile environment for my fellow employees, it’s still bad business practice – why say things that will potentially push away clients/customers/etc.? (I work with kids, which would make it all the worse – gay or questioning kids do *not* need more adults bullying them.)

        1. jmkenrick*

          I agree wholeheartedly. One of the main issues I had with my last job was that one of the other employees was openly homophobic. I would always politely disagree with her, and never got in trouble for that, but frankly I think it’s flat out inappropriate that she was even allowed to bring her feelings up (for the record, it was completely unrelated to our work).

          She never said anything disparaging about a group I’m a part of, but I don’t feel comfortable hearing people say such rude things. I feel the need to stick up for my friends and family who are gay, and on a more selfish note, it just gives the whole office a negative/ignorant vibe…

    3. Marie*

      @ Slaten: this sounds very insensitive of you. The remark by the interviewer was definitely homophobic and was therefore cruel and inappropriate.

  4. Tim Gardner*

    If the job in every other way seemed like a fit, and there are others that you will work with that you feel do not have this bias, I would consider accepting the position, and telling the new co-worker, when the time is right, that you were surprised by her comment about her daughter. I could absolutely imagine this coming from a former co-worker of mine, and if confronted, she would totally not understand that what she said was potentially offensive, and certainly cause for concern. But this kind of bias in an account manager sure surprises me, and may indeed tell you what is acceptable behavior. If you have options, I would say turn it down and let them know that the discussion with that manager was a factor.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree totally with this comment. The person making the comments probably doesn’t realize how rude they are. I think that if you need reassurance that the culture is gay friendly or you aren’t taking the job you should say something to the manager. If you decide to take the job I think you should try to explain to the person why what they said was wrong. If she then gives you a problem you should then talk to the manager.

      The reasoning for my logic was that the last job I had I got labeled a homophobic. The reasoning was that u didn’t go into a dance club that was also a gay bar when I was out with another new hire. The reasoning was I don’t do crowded bars because I have a fear of large crowds and being touched by people I don’t know. Rather than explaining myself I just left and didn’t think much of it. I went to work the next day and was labeled homophobic. That title never goes away even if it isn’t true. So I suggest proceeding with caution.

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t know. The person knew the word, “dyke.” That, to me, says they knew EXACTLY what they were saying, and that’s unacceptable to me.

        As to what the OP should do, I’m torn. On the one hand, I am of the opinion that he/she should turn it down and tell them why (without coming out if they are not out, of course.) On the other hand, there’s always the “teachable moment” element.

        That said, I know that I, as a Pagan for instance, would not want to work in an environment where I knew that my coworkers (and possibly management) felt I was not welcome. Work should be a tolerable place, since we spend so much of our time there.

  5. Tiffany Willis*

    I don’t think he should mention that he’s gay at all. I don’t think sexuality should be a part of the interview process at all. I would take offense to that statement and I’m not gay. Perhaps if he receives an offer, he can ask where the company stands on embracing diversity. And if asked for clarification, he can explain why he has a concern. I think this is an issue regardless of what his sexuality is.

    1. Jamie*

      Exactly – I’m not gay either, but I found it highly offensive and I wouldn’t want to work there.

      The fact that she was so comfortable blurting that out speaks a lot to the culture. One could make the assumption (and I would) that if she would say it to a stranger she’s probably said similar to her co-workers and if she didn’t get schooled by now that’s a problem.

      I do understand that the OP was more offended because they are gay, which is totally understandable…but I would hate for the company to write this off as you being touchy because it was personal for you rather than what it is – completely unacceptable behavior.

      1. Natalie*

        “The fact that she was so comfortable blurting that out speaks a lot to the culture.”

        Exactly! I’m white and work in an all-white office, and there is a level of casual racism accepted here that I find offensive. I completely ignored this red flag earlier but it has become apparent that it does reflect a certain “mild” racism. (Meaning my co-workers aren’t going to flat out reject all black candidates, but they would hold a black candidate to a higher standard than a white one.

        1. Liz T*

          I realized this in one of my coworkers the other day. There was a lot of talk of how a former employee had been “ghetto.” She even used the phrase, “ghetto black chicks.” I was offended, and I didn’t say anything, and I feel terrible about it. I generally find this woman rude and kind of dumb–it almost seems pointless to correct her on anything–but I never thought of myself as someone who’d let casual racism slide. I’m the new girl, and I didn’t quite know what to do. Any advice?

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree. I think that stating that you are gay in this situation will only make it easier for the company to trivalize the issue by calling the OP “oversensitive”. This is an issue full stop. Not this is an issue because the OP is gay.

    3. Emily*

      I agree. I take offense to the homophobic statement. I take offense to the discriminatory and crass language. I take offense to the account manager’s presumption that the candidate must a) conclude anything about her daughter based on the sport she plays b) share her bigotry c) care even the slightest bit what sport she plays. I take offense to the prejudicial and ridiculous stereotype about softball players! I’d be like, “Go ahead, aren’t you gonna tell me which way she ‘swings’?” Give me a break!

      You said that you’d be working with this individual and that the firm is small, and I would also be completely turned off from this company and the job opportunity. None of the likely excuses actually *excuse* this behavior in my mind. Perhaps this manager is an aberration. Perhaps her remark was an aberration. Perhaps she immediately realized her mistake; perhaps she has no idea she made one, and if not, I think she must be told.

      Ugh. Gross, gross, gross.

  6. Sabrina*

    I once was going on an interview that I got through a head hunter. The day before she had me come in to her office to coach me for the interview. It was late afternoon, after work, and she was the only one there so she had on her radio. A Melissa Etheridge song came on the radio. She remarked that she used to like her, and then she found out she was gay. Sure you’re entitled to your opinion, but I was taken back by the comment and offended. I was only 20 at the time and really wanted the job, so I didn’t say anything. Plus I wouldn’t be working for or with her, so I said nothing. Had I been older I would have gotten up and walked out or at least said something. She made money off of placing me. I’m still kicking myself for letting that comment slide even all these years longer.

    1. Nichole*

      Don’t beat yourself up Sabrina, it’s hard to stand up in those situations. I think we all respond poorly to something like that at least once before we learn from that experience and start thinking about how to handle it in the future. I agree, she can feel however she wants, but it was completely inappropriate for her to say that in a professional context, especially when she was in a power position or a perceived position of power over you. Ugh.

    1. Anonymous*

      Except when you actually measure the results in a controlled experiment and you find out that people’s gut reactions are very often wrong.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        I’ll trust my gut every time over the opinions of some anonymous poster on the internet.

  7. Laura*

    I feel like it’s possible that this comment is being blown out of proportion. There’s so much more to what is being said than just the words, so I feel it’s hard to really judge the situation, as I was not present. Now that said, it would depend entirely on how the comment was made and how it was received. Sometimes we make comments based on other peoples reactions. Maybe there was a momentary look of shock or something that encouraged the commenter to explain, and in a moment of nerves she said a few words that could be taken the wrong way. Of course, on the other hand, she could easily be homophobic, and although it would be great, I doubt you can know for sure from a few short minutes of conversation. To the OP, I would suggest going with your gut on turning down the offer and as for a reason, I would simply explain that you didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the office environment.

    1. Esra*

      So what’s the right way to take “but she’s not a dyke or anything.” ?

      If someone lets a statement like that loose on your first meeting them, I’d say it send a pretty clear message.

      1. Helen*

        Apart from the fact that it’s an offensive remark, I am somewhat boggled that someone would associate softball and lesbianism.

        1. Anonymous*

          As a lesbian, I can confirm that the commenter was not the first person to connect lesbians and softball :)

          I also agree with Esra though. I don’t understand people who want to give a comment like that a pass, because “there’s so much more to what is being said than just the words.” Words mean things, and adults need to be held responsible for the things they say. Even if you were inclined to give the person the benefit of the doubt, what excuse could you give them that would make it ok? They didn’t know “dyke”is insulting? Not only is that highly unlikely, but that would just mean that the person had no clue whatsoever and either the company doesn’t know (not a good sign) or does know and is ok with them talking to interviewees/customers/etc. Still not a good sign.

          1. Kristin*

            Well, it’s not just that the pinterviewer said “dyke.” It’s that she seemed concerned that the OP would assume her daughter was gay and judge her negatively based on that. To me, that implies that the interviewer 1) Thinks that intolerance is the norm, and 2) Would be upset if a total stranger thought her daughter was gay. I would have difficulty working with a person like that.

            If I were in that interview, I would have been immediately pissed off and would have responded, “Would it be a problem if she was?”

            On a (somewhat) related note- I’m working at an accounting firm right now, and our shared drives are all named with an acronym for something else that spells out “FAG.” It’s very jarring, and I hate having to see that word all day long. I know it’s just the initials of the company, but I’m kind of offended by it. How do people overlook this kind of thing?!?

            1. Chris*

              If I worked at Federated Amalgamated Gemstone and the shared drives had the initials “F.A.G” I would not assume it’s a slur!

            2. kristin*

              @Chris I know it’s not intended as a slur, but that word is really offensive, and I don’t want to look at it every time I open a file. There’s NO reason they couldn’t have named it something else.

            3. Anonymous*

              People are on political correctness overload. You do know that fag also means cigarette, don’t you? Chill out. I don’t know why everyone has to be offended and or outraged over everything all the time. Your outrage is outrageous. I worked at a company full of fundamentalist christians who loathed jews and catholics, but hired a few anyway and we kept our mouths shut. We did our work and got paid. Talk of religion was redirected to the weather. In otherwords, we learned how to suck it up. And so can the OP. In this economy anyone is an idiot to turn down a job. You will always work with jerks and ignorant fools. Do you really want to let one of them come between you and a paycheck?

            4. Anonymous*

              Anonymous @ 1:45 am, political correctness overload? Dyke is also a type of dam. Bitch is also a female dog. Fag is also short for faggot, which is a bundle of sticks usually used as kindle. All these words have alternate, non-offensive meanings, but that doesn’t make them any less offensive.

            5. Lizzie*

              Disagree. I think it *is* that the interviewer said dyke. To believe that someone might judge his daughter for being a lesbian would be a pretty normal concern if she were one. Many people are prejudiced.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree with Esra – there are plenty of statements which are ambiguous and could be offensive or not depending on context…but there is no context which makes this comment okay.

      3. Long Time Admin*

        Esra, while I agree that the comment is not appropriate, I feel that the woman was just clueless, not malicious. Perhaps she’s had people commenting that her daughter must be a dyke if she’s athletic, so this is what comes out of her mouth. (This was very common years ago; girls who were interested in math, science, athletics, etc. were “probably queer”, and boys who were interest in art, music, design, child care and the like were also though “probably queer”.) There are a lot of these dolts who are not politically correct, but not steaming cauldrons of hate, either.

        The OP should trust his/her instinct on this, though.

    2. Jennifer*

      I beg to differ. I think this is a very important issue.

      Workplace environment aside, what if this woman said something like that to a CLIENT?

      Speech like this in mixed company is not OK.

      Would you feel it’s being blown out of proportion if the person had used the “N” word in referring to a black acquaintance or colleague?

      1. wits*

        I totally agree! The fact that she used that term makes it clear this wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark. What if she had said, “My daughter is a big fan of Denzel Washington, but don’t worry, she doesn’t date [n-word]s.”?

  8. Henning Just*

    I think the original advice is sound – mention this to the company. There is a chance that this was simply an unfortunate remark – let us hope so – as these do happen. In my own experience this has happened at an interview where my colleague somehow got himself started on a sentence that could not end well. His save was as unfortunate as the rest of the sentence but would have been OK as long as our interviewee wes not gay – but she was :-D
    We apologized and she forgave us.

    1. Elizabeth*

      “…would have been OK as long as our interviewee was not gay…”

      Don’t be so sure of that. I’m straight, but (partly because I have a number of very dear friends who are gay) think I’d be just as likely to be put off as if I were gay. I don’t know what the comment was, of course, but don’t assume that because someone isn’t part of a minority group that they won’t be as bothered by remarks against that group.

  9. Joey*

    If you decide to report the comment wait until you get an offer in hand or you know you’re out of the running. Reporting it before then will kill your chances of getting an offer.

  10. Sergey Gorbatov*

    If your personal comfort is more important to you than money, run! Such remarks at a very early stage of your coming to know a company are usually good indicators of the prevaling culture at that place. The rule of thumb is – if it does not smell good, typically the taste is not that great either. Diversity is a culture and not a statement on the corporate website (http://hrboutique.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-ibm-works-diversity-30.html): so ask yourself a question, “How will I feel spending over 8 hours each working day with people who deride me?” That would be the key to your decision on whether you want to accept the offer or not.

  11. fposte*

    While I know there’s no evidence here of actual hiring discrimination, I might be more inclined to mention it in a state where there’s GLBT anti-discrimination legislation for employment. I think an employer might want to be alerted to a situation that could land them in legal hot water.

  12. Laura Y.*

    Adding another nod of agreement to the original advice. I currently work with a woman who is incredibly racist, but of the “I like some [insert ethnicity here] people so it’s okay” variety (I was also shocked to find out that she’s pretty uneducated about what’s offensive, e.g, the difference between “Asian” and “Oriental” — I’m working on it). Had I interviewed with her (I did not), I would have had serious questions about the environment here and I like to think I would have brought them up when I was made an offer, since I do find it very uncomfortable to be in that sort of atmosphere.

    Turns out, she’s really the only person in the company with those attitudes, and by making it very clear that I’m uncomfortable when she makes racist remarks, I got her to tone it down in general and finally got to the point where she doesn’t have those conversations or make those sorts of remarks around me at all. I’ve also gotten our mutual manager on board with being more proactive about stopping those kinds of remarks (manager is a lovely person but generally very “don’t rock the boat” — whole other issue). So not only do I have a job I love, I feel pretty good about lessening someone’s ignorance (or at the very least keeping her from spreading it around as much).

    1. Anonymous*

      My wife has tried to coach me on the difference between “Asian” and “Oriental” but I guess I must be racist. Which is proper and which is not? And when did this happen?

      That said, I don’t think the use of the word “dyke” in this instance is appropriate.

      1. wits*

        Use “Asian” when talking about people. Use “Oriental” when talking about a THING, i.e. cuisine or a rug.

        1. Liz T*

          I disagree about cuisine. Only say “Oriental” if there are implied quotes around it. An “Oriental” rug if you must, because that is the name of the style. An Asian rug is one from Asia; an Oriental rug is one that fits the colonialist concept of Asian design. In just about every other situation, just say “Asian” and you’ll be fine.

          Unless you’re in the UK, where “Asian” means “Indian/Pakistani.” They really still say “Oriental” over there.

  13. Anonymous*

    I am the original poster to this question. I just want to say THANK YOU all for the comments. I would just like to add that the company is a very small (less than 15 people) family-owned company. The father is the owner, his wife works there as well as his two sons. The woman that make the comment has worked there for 20 years. There is absolutely no way I would work there after she so blatantly offended me. If that is the way they conduct themselves during an interview, I can just imagine how they would conduct themselves once they got comfortable around me. I am a lesbian and the woman’s “disgust” for dykes is a huge red flag for me to RUN. My dilemma is more so how to go about rejecting the offer. My industry is very small and close-knit. The interviewer is even close personal friends with one of my references. I do not want to offend him and I do not want to burn any bridges in my career. The woman has worked there for 20 years….I highly doubt anything I say would make a bit of difference. I also believe that due to the size of the company, I would not be protected by any the labor board if things were to go wrong during my course of employment.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think that if you are very concerned about your ability to stay in the industry I’d say, “I don’t think that I would be a very good fit for the culture.” Which will make the company think it is about you, despite it being clearly an issue with her/them.

    2. Kristin*

      Good for you! I’m sure you’re find something else amazing. I would still mention it when you decline the offer- at least to bring it to their attention that this kind of behavior can cause them to lose awesome candidates.

    3. An Ally*

      Hi OP,
      I agree with Anon @ 10:56 that having a stock line like “I don’t think that I would be a very good fit for the culture” is good.

      However, having rejected an offer for similar reasons in the past, I’d be prepared to be pressed for details. Think about (and practice, if it helps) what you’ll say if you are asked for clarification. I think most employers would really want to know about this – and that you can probably come up with a way to phrase this so that they’ll get a sense of what you mean without having to spell it out.
      (In my case, I said something like, “based on some of the comments made I felt like this isn’t a good place for me to be right now , and that specifically comments were made that indicated that my identities as [x, y, and z] would not be welcome here.” That gave them enough so that they figured out what it is they’d said/done wrong, made it my issue and not theirs, left the door open for the future [since I’d said, “right now” multiple times through that awkward conversation], and hopefully was enough of a proverbial smack to the back of the head that they’ll never, ever, do it to someone else. I specifically was a bit more forceful than you might want to be – I’d been recruited for that position and wasn’t really interested in going there again, for several years at least. You may want to be a little more tactful.)

      Best of luck to you!

    4. None*

      While it’s good to have opinions, morals and convictions, I think that you are in for a tough road ahead if you give up on a good job just because someone says something you don’t like. I am gay too and there will always be good and bad things about every work situation. If you continue to balk at every opportunity when someone says something negative to you then you will end up poor. Honestly.

      If the comment had been ageist or negative towards another religion, would you have felt just as strongly? Use these situations as teaching opportunities. Stonewall was not fueled by a bunch of people who ran away.

    5. fposte*

      Sadly, I think you’ve correctly assessed the situation. (And even if there was legislation covering this business, that doesn’t mean you want to approach a hill you may not want to die on.) At least you found out before, not after, you became part of their office.

    6. Anonymous*

      Since you’re too offended to accept the job, will you please pass along the job lead to me? I am not too good to take work. I know how to put up with a-holes so my bills will get paid.

      1. Mike C.*

        Get over yourself. It’s because of spineless people like you that others have to suffer in silence.

      2. Anonymous*

        If the employee’s behavior is indicative of the company culture, no amount of money should justify being in that kind of work environment. That kind of comment is far beyond just putting up with a-holes. Not sure about you, but I have enough self-respect for myself that I will choose NOT to put myself in an uncomfortable, soul-sucking, discrimination cesspool just for a paycheck. That would not make me, or the OP, “too good to take work.”

    7. Anonymous*

      I’m just curious as to how through the interview the subject of her daughter playing softball came up? And then how the conversation went on from there when she made the homosexual comment. It just seems like an odd conversation during an interview.

  14. Anonymous*

    Jennifer – That is exactly what I told my partner when I came home from the interview. I was in shock. It was like she used the N word. As an employee of 20 years, I believe this woman was a true representation of the lack of professionalism of the entire office.

  15. Anonymous*

    I don’t understand why some commenters feel the need to indicate their sexual orientation in their comments. Are you less credible if you’re straight and more credible if you’re lgbt?

    1. Jamie*

      Has nothing to do with credibility – it’s illustrative of the poster’s perspective on this issue.

      I did it to make the point that derogatory comments about gay people offend a lot of people – not just homosexuals.

  16. Anonymous*

    No one is more or less credible. Rather, I think commenters who identify as straight say so to demonstrate that discrimination doesn’t offend or affect those being discriminated against.

  17. Bohdan Rohbock*

    The company is small and family-owned. They probably don’t conduct many interviews and aren’t worried about EEOC issues. I think the OP is correct in assessing that the interviewer’s behavior is a fair indicator of office culture. In fact, she may well have been on her best behavior.

    I agree with None that being so easily offended is going to cause future problems. I would add that it may be indicative of an opportunity for the OP to increase in emotional maturity and social skill. I was taught that “only a fool takes offense where no offense was meant and a greater fool when offense was meant.” That has stood me in good stead when I have followed it.

    That being said, ideally you would always feel free to reject a job offer for any reason whatsoever. How you word your rejection would depend on what you want to accomplish. Do you want to try to educate (at the risk of alienating) or simply smooth it over and move on?

    If you want to educate I would recommend not doing so from a belief of righteousness. If you have any air of moral superiority in your tone or words it will probably offend.

    1. Natalie*

      Federal law, sadly, doesn’t cover sexual orientation. Depending on what state the OP is in, the employee’s comment may not even qualify as discrimination.

    2. Liz T*

      But…offense was meant. She didn’t know she was offending the person present, but she knew she was saying something offensive to a group of people.

      I’m sure there’s a group you’re a member of that, were you not desperate, you’d sacrifice a job because someone had said to your face that they despise that group.

    1. Natalie*

      Was that supposed to be a reply to me? If so, you might want to take a look at what behaviors are actually covered by the law. “Hostile work environment” gets thrown around incorrectly a lot, but this is actually the one area where it counts.

      If the OP’s state has added sexual orientation to their civil rights laws, then the employee’s comments would create a hostile work environment, which is a form of discrimination. There are more kinds of discrimination than refusing to hire.

        1. Anonymous*

          If this employee is spouting this to a relative stranger, getting to “severe and pervasive” isn’t much of a stretch if the OP takes this job, imo.

  18. Marie*

    To “Anonymous” who posted on June 30, 2011 at 1:45 am:
    “People are on political correctness overload.” Oh, come on – that’s a terrible thing to say. Bigoted remarks (as exemplified in this thread) are in no way a form of “politically correct overload”. Not only am I fed up with bigots, but I am also fed up with cruel, insensitive people who say “suck it up” in reference to hateful and hurtful remarks.

    1. ToddH*

      Personally, I agree with the anonymous poster. The level of political correctness has gone too far. I’m a white heterosexual male and it’s hard for me to relate to such bigoted remarks.

      You can’t change how people perceive you, however you can consider the source of the remark, in your head call them them a dumb a** , move on, and get over it.

      1. Marie*

        It’s comments and attitudes like yours that contribute to bigotry, ignorance, insensitivity, and selfishness.

        1. lorrwill*

          Exactly. Just because you aren’t discriminated against does not mean that it is not a problem.

    2. Anonymous*

      I guess I’m in the middle:

      I hatehatehate when people make bigoted comments for any reason, even when the comments are about groups I’m not a part of.

      I don’t want to ever say anything that would hurt anyone, either, but I gotta tell ya: if you’re not IN the minority group, it’s hard to keep up with what’s offensive TO members of the group. That Asian/Oriental thing? I had no clue. I would die of embarrassment if someone took offense to my misuse, but keeping up with this stuff is very difficult, and I’m an avid consumer of news and commentary from a variety of sources.

      So I agree that there’s a point where too-easy offense is taken.

      1. Elsie*

        Oriental hasn’t been acceptable for as long as I can remember. And my memory of things like that goes back to about 1991. So, it’s nothing new.

        1. Anonymous*

          My memory of ‘things like that’ goes back to 1970, and I don’t think my life has been particularly sheltered, especially in cultural awareness. I’ve worked in HR for three decades.

          My point is: there is no unifying source to tell us what is offensive to everyone. Flipping out of the tank over the Asian/Oriental reference is a little over the top.

          The dyke reference is all wrong, of course. If you know what it means, you know that it will never be taken as a kind reference. But some of this stuff is fairly subtle.

          1. violet*

            It’s true, some of this stuff is pretty subtle. And I think most people afford some leeway because of that, particularly if it seems likely that the speaker is just uninformed on this subject, and really doesn’t know of a better word (because of the their age or because they’re a non-native speaker or whatever).

            That said, if you’re working in HR, isn’t it kindof part of your job to keep up with the evolution of language and culture in this regard?

  19. Erica B*

    yikes. I would be offended by that comment as well, but I like to think I would have replied back at the moment with something to the tune of “there’s nothing wring with that (being gay)”. There are many instances where people have made comments to me about “poor people on welfare” and stereotypes associated with the fact they are on welfare, not realizing that this highly offends me, as I grew up in a single mother household and on welfare and many of the people in my town were too- and we did not fit the stereotype. I always chime in and tell them not everyone on welfare mooches off the government or are illegal and proceed to tell them that I was “that” kid and look where I am at now. And people who dodge paying their child support by working under the table also gets under my skin..

    In a professional environment you can’t (shouldn’t) make derogatory comments of any kind. It’s just not smart.

  20. Annr*

    I think it’s possible that the word and characterization came out of the manager’s mouth because she was probing the gal being interviewed.

    People with phobia’s about people of other races or persuasions are often quite atuned to signals from others. She knew she couldn’t come out and ask if the woman was gay, so she lobbed an offensive term at her.

    I would turn it down and leave it at that. It isn’t your job to correct the company, it’s your job to find a new job. If you get hired elsewhere and this manager hob-knobs with your new employers you don’t need to have any gossip floating around about you.

  21. lorrwill*

    Definitely a huge red flag. That is was a gay comment is not the point. That it was a derogatory comment against a protested class, is.

    I would take offense even though I am straight. But I am also the “black lady” in my company. I despise being trivialized like that. Management (which obviously has no black members) lets it slide and says I am too sensitive.

    Would you like the be the only representative of your group, be marginalized and have to continually overlook your managers’ and coworkers’ ignorance or out-and-out biases?

    If the dyke comment person does not reflect the culture of the company, then the company needs to reexamine their diversity policy and training. (How would a potential customer feel if that were said?)

    I am in complete agreement with letting someone know why you are declining their offer in a polite, tactful and respectful way. It may be a turning point for the company or it may just be a moment you get to look back on and know you did the right thing.

  22. Rana*

    I am also the “black lady” in my company.

    I’m sorry. That’s just shitty behavior, and I’m sorry that you have to put up with such unprofessional behavior.

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