A HR manager at a property company has been accused of sending a phallic-shaped chocolate to an employee’s house, with the message ‘Eat A D**k’, as an act of racial discrimination and harassment.
Steven Urenda, a janitorial manager at the Oregon based firm Dasher Lights LLC and Aspen Ridge Property Services, has accused the company’s HR manager of racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
The lawsuit was filed after the HR manager, Jessica Carlin, allegedly sent a penis-shaped chocolate to Urenda's home, mistakenly leaving her name on the parcel, meaning Urenda knew who it came from.
Despite Carlin’s admission to sending the package, the property company offered Urenda a $50 (£40.08) gift certificate and the prospect of an apology, instead of disciplining the HR manager.
Reportedly, Urenda’s partner and daughter were “deeply disturbed” by the package as they were at home when the delivery was made and were shocked that no action was taken by the company despite the “obvious racial implications” of “mailing a large black chocolate penis” to Urenda, who is Hispanic and identifies as black, the lawsuit said.
As a result, Urenda filed a lawsuit that revealed Carlin had called the janitorial manager a ‘huge d**k’ before sending the package, as her husband worked under Urenda at the company. Urenda felt the company owners wanted to “end the conversation and sweep the issue under the rug as soon as possible”, the suit explained.
Urenda alleges that the situation came to a head when rubbish he would collect as part of his job would be put back out again for him to re-collect the following day, saying the bullying made him feel “degraded and humiliated”.
“To allow a supervisory employee in a position of power—especially one with responsibility for human resources functions—to act in such a blatantly racist and harassing manner toward an employee is inexcusable enough,” said Urenda's legal representative. "But the retaliation my client received while advocating for some basic human dignity and a safe working environment went the step beyond.”
As a result, Urenda is seeking over $500,000 (£430,487) worth of damages after being forced to resign.
Who’s watching HR?
Typically, people go into Human Resources because they have a genuine passion for people and making businesses better places. But occasionally, there is the possibility of HR practitioners not living up to their own policies. This is even more likely when there is only one person acting at HR, or a limited number of people to adequately provide checks and balances within the department.
To ensure checks and balances in HR, organisations can implement a multifaceted approach. This includes establishing clear HR policies, conducting regular internal audits, segregating HR duties, and providing avenues for employee feedback. Third-party reviews and whistleblower policies add external oversight, while comprehensive documentation and senior management involvement promote accountability.
Employee training on compliance and ethical behavior, along with transparent conflict resolution procedures, foster fairness within the organisation and limit the possibility of HR wrongdoing. This holistic strategy maintains compliance, reduces risks, and enhances transparency and trust, ensuring HR practices align with organisational values and legal standards.