Pattern of fairness overcomes dumb mistake.

If a manager makes an unwise (and possibly discriminatory) comment to a worker, a court will look to how your company responded--and whether this was a pattern or isolated incident. Having a history of fair and transparent supervisor decisions tends to demonstrate that an employer didn't intend to discriminate.

Recent case: A restaurant manager suggested to Ryan, a gay employee, that he'd be more likely to get promoted if he would "act a little more masculine." The manager also urged him to change his spiked hairstyle, which he did. Ryan received several promotions over the next year.

Eventually, Ryan mentioned the...

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