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Life Lesson Lawyer Learned from Swearing in Arabic

Posted Jun 4, 2008 4:30 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Calling a fellow hotel employee a pig in Arabic while working as a desk clerk decades ago taught employment lawyer Michael Maslanka a lesson he has never forgotten: Principled compassion is appropriate when deciding whether to fire a worker.

In his own case, the remark, unfortunately, was apparently overheard by several Arabic-speaking guests he hadn't spotted who had been sent to the Washington, D.C., hotel by the nearby Lebanese embassy, Maslanka recounts in a Texas Lawyer article. This led to a meeting at the outset of his next shift with the Lebanese, and Arabic-speaking, assistant manager. Maslanka's employment file, fortunately, contained numerous letters from satisfied guests, and he was told to comply in the future with a forthcoming memo.

Addressed to front desk staff, from the manager, regarding swearing in Arabic, it said: "Henceforth, only I will be allowed to swear in Arabic at the front desk. Any staff violating this rule will be terminated."

Warning an employee is appropriate and can be much preferable to a shoot-from-the-hip automatic disciplinary reaction, Maslanka writes, if consideration is given to certain factors. They include the employee's training, job record and whether the discipline is fair to the worker—and will seem fair to a jury.

"I lost touch with the assistant manager but never lost touch with his lesson. I use it to this day, which brings me to asking readers for a favor," Maslanka writes. "Take a minute to recall your lessons learned, who did the teaching and why the lessons are important. Then take the next step: Pass them on. A little karma can do a lot of good."

Read the full article here.


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