This week the country was rocked by headlines of campus unrest at the University of Missouri that culminated in the resignation of Timothy Wolfe, President of the University System.  Campus-wide demonstrations alleging that Wolfe properly failed to respond to report of racial bias incidents lead to the Tigers football team refusing to practice (this was likely the tipping point, as a strike on the part of the football team would have caused a seven-figure penalty each Saturday).


While I would argue that the culture in academia at the moment is hyper volatile and more identity-driven that at any point in my lifetime, the lessons this campus and its former president learned are applicable to organizations of all types.  Like most other things in employment law, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure.  If the Mizzou administration had been more proactive in a timely, comprehensive response to perceived racial bias on campus, they could have short-circuited the campus unrest and ultimately preserved the organizational structure.

When an employee raises a concern that they believe they are the victims of a hostile work environment, take the allegation seriously and investigate promptly.  Failure to do so can result in later litigation where the failure to investigate will be used by the employee to show racial animus on the part of the company.  And we have seen at the University of Missouri, it can also mean the end of a career for senior executives.