Can a person be written up for having a “bubbly” or “friendly” personality?

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Can a person be written up for having a “bubbly” or “friendly” personality?

A friend of mine has been verbally reprimanded for talking too sexy, walking too sexy, and just received a written reprimand for being “too friendly.” She has worked at this location for 7 years and seems to get a reprimand just before it is time to look at promotions. She feels that she is being harassed. HR was involved in the latest reprimand. I have an HR background and believe she has a legitimate claim to go to the EEOC with. Just want to steer her in the right direction.

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Mexico

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

IF there were no reason to believe that sexual harassment or discrimination may be involved, then yes--you could be (in the absence of an employment contract detailing grounds or process for discipline) be written up for being too "bubbly" or "friendly." It would be perfectly legal for an employer to only want low-energy, grumpy misanthropes, for example.

However, that changes if the write up for being bubbly or friendly appears to be cover for or code for sexual harassment or discrimination; it is illegal for an an employer to discriminate in employment against women because they are women. When a woman is told she is "too sexy," that is very likely sexual discrimination or harassment--an employer should NEVER be telling any employee that she is too "sexy."

If your friend has suffered any substantive adverse consequence--for example, she thinks she has been paid less, not been promoted, received less desirable assignment, etc.--because of what appears to be sexual harassment or discrimination, she should consult with an employment law attorney: she may have a worthwhile lawsuit. In the absence of tangible losses or damages, it may make more sense to contact either the federal EEOC or her state equal rights or equal opportunity commission/agency.


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