Prompted by this question:

How to prevent female being hired

I think Kilisi summarised most users' stance on the subject raised by the OP in his answer:

Your undoubtably admirable and steadfast religious convictions are unfortunately totally at odds with Western mores and social systems.

The kind of gender discrimination suggested by the OP is illegal in most Western countries and generally villified in those cultures, as evidenced by the reactions this post elicited. After less than a hundred views the question has already been downvoted into oblivion and is on its fourth close vote. However, as much as I may dislike it, the opinion brought forth by the OP is still a majority opinion in certain parts of the world and the Workplace is still an international site.

With that in mind, how should we deal with questions like these in the future? These questions are liable to turn into a pile-on, as happened with a previous question on religious restrictions on male-female interactions: How to politely decline a handshake due to religious reasons?.

Cultural differences lie at the base of this particular question, but I'm not sure if this discussion should be restricted to just those instances so I've kept a generic title.


Note that this question was originally deleted by a moderator after being closed (as "real questions have answers") and downvoted to put a stop to the perceived abuse of the OP in the question's comments. It has since been undeleted and the comment thread erased. After some edits the question was reopened. The OP later added and accepted his own answer as a controversial update to a controversial question. That answer has since been deleted.

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    As worded the question itself is actually quite lucid and detailed. I wish I could answer to provide my POV which is, "Your concerns are negated not just by legal obligations to the company but also your desire to not have been a part of the initial interview. By not being a part of the process you sent the message that your religious beliefs outweigh the goals of the company. If your visa hinges on this job, why play games with this aspect of it? Respect for your religious beliefs are at odds with the company's goals. How to solve that? Maybe find a new job." – Giacomo1968 Sep 29 '15 at 5:17
  • I modified my answer to the question, so unsure if this still applies. Happy enough to remodify if there's any suggestions. – Kilisi Sep 29 '15 at 14:52
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    I proposed an edit to the question (title included), trying my best to remove all the ranting. – Trickylastname Sep 29 '15 at 17:38
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    A good edit @Trickylastname, upvoted. I did add my own edit as "females" is generally not a great way to refer to women. – Lilienthal Sep 29 '15 at 20:17
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    Thanks @Lilienthal. English is my second language, and even though I'm really fluent I'm not aware of every little detail. – Trickylastname Sep 29 '15 at 20:22
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    @Dogbert As I expected, reopening this was not so much a teaching moment for the OP as it was a teaching moment for some of the userbase that some people just have an unshakeable and overly narrow view of the world that you're just not going to change. – Lilienthal Sep 30 '15 at 13:07
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    @Lilienthal so sad this happened, but with such extreme opinions I had very little hope of improvement. One could say such change of mind would be a miracle. – Trickylastname Sep 30 '15 at 14:25
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    @Lilienthal You are correct. I had hoped that with the carefully written responses other people had provided, this could either be a constructive question, or TC would have considered a more liberal approach to the topic. Instead, he sets equality back a couple centuries in his office. – Cloud Sep 30 '15 at 14:38
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    The biggest problem I have is that the question was deleted to "prevent abuse of the OP". This is a very weird reason, considering that the OP can delete his question whenever he wants anyway and the people who are the problem are the abusers, not the victim. – John Hammond Oct 1 '15 at 7:01
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    @LarsFriedrich once a question has multiple answers or any upvoted answer, the OP can't delete it. – Monica Cellio Oct 1 '15 at 13:13
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    How far can we go to define a question as potentially offensive. If the OP was launching a tirade because one of his fellow workers openly eats ham sandwiches while the very sight of pork violates his sensibilities, would that be offensive? Or a Hindu being upset with someone chewing beef jerky? Or a Christian ranting about a transgender? – Kilisi Oct 2 '15 at 1:05
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    I suspect any of those would draw votes to close as likely to draw more opinion than anything else. – keshlam Oct 3 '15 at 2:50

This is a really unfortunate situation. Someone with a legitimate question (to them, at least) comes to The Workplace and is more or less chased off the site.

As a moderator, I have somewhat just accepted that this site is not a place where anyone with a... differing opinion/cultural perspective/religion than what fits "Western culture" to be welcomed. Many questions here result in the OP effectively being trolled off the site.

When encountered with a viewpoint like from the question you reference, which seems entirely wrong and incompatible with the culture it's asked about (seems to be USA), there are a few reactions people can have:

  1. Seek to understand why they have their viewpoint.
  2. Immediately assume motives, judge them, and react accordingly.

Regardless of why the OP wanted to ask that question, it's clear that nearly everyone that interacted with that question was only interested in (2). However (2) almost universally results in content violating the Be Nice policy of Stack Exchange.

People here seem to overwhelmingly vote based on "I like the post" and "I dislike the post (or poster)." There are many questions which are relatively good questions for the site, but written by people with an attitude, controversial belief, whatever. These questions frequently get downvoted because people find them objectionable. We clean up all sorts of comments on these questions that are completely unacceptable.

The site community as a whole seems ok upvoting answers saying, "you are a [jerk, loser, tool, etc]" that don't answer the actual question. These answers are normally the most popular ones of all on more controversial questions.

People are free to vote as they wish. It's by design anonymous and that will not change (obviously).

I just wish more people were interested in teaching, coaching, mentoring, and guiding people rather than blatantly condemning. If people who have [wrong, bigoted, sexist, etc] viewpoints never have someone constructively explain how and why those viewpoints are problematic then how will they ever learn anything different? If all they ever receive is hostility and negativity... that is not the way you change someone's perspective.

Plenty of people grow up in cultures where expectations of behavior are different. Without someone providing constructive guidance, those will never change.

The Be Nice section is still applicable - even if you think someone is a [bigot, jerk, idiot, etc].

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    Well said! Even if we cannot seek to understand why they have their viewpoint we could at least seek to educate folks on how the real-world workplace exists in the target part of the world. That would help others, where being intolerant and nuking the question won't help anyone. – Joe Strazzere Sep 28 '15 at 19:06
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    I have to disagree with your opinion because your opening statement is wrong in my eyes. I would argue the question discussed here is not in fact legitimate to anyone in their right mind regardless of their personal beliefs. The OP's issue is that they are living among a society whose fundamental ideas they don't share, yet leaving is no option for them. I believe that regardless of what your personal opinions on women's rights or any other social matters are, you will thus find no meaningful answer to a question like this. – zinfandel Sep 29 '15 at 23:31
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    @zinfandel: I have to disagree with your disagreement. There is most definitely a meaningful and useful answer; "you can't do that". Adding details about where to focus their energies in order to make their workplace more pleasant and acceptable is also useful. Also identifying whose problem it is (his) and not hers or his employers is useful. – jmoreno Sep 30 '15 at 3:48
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    @zinfandel: Actually, I think your comment would make a good answer - essentially "this will not work in the society you live in". Sometimes, the right answer is simply "this is not possible (and here's why)". – sleske Sep 30 '15 at 8:51
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    No. No. And No. If someone said, "My religion prohibits me from working with people with dark skin. How can I tell my manager?" Would you encourage people to act the same way? Why are women any less of a minority? – Jim G. Sep 30 '15 at 17:50
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    @JimG. but we're not encouraging anyone here are we? with the extremely negative reception OP had, I think he understand that this isn't condoned in the US. To me, it's "reason X" (let's forget WHAT reason X is for a second) "stops me from working with employee Y" (again let's forget what makes Y special) "how do I work around this". If it was "Y is an ex-coworker and used to harass me", it would be appropriate. Just like on Stack Overflow when people ask how to reverse engineer or code virus, let's not attribute any intent and look at the question. OP's navigating a workplace problem, period. – Patrice Sep 30 '15 at 18:45
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    @JimG agreed. If the OP were a member of the Aryan Nation and was trying to convince the boss not to hire people of different races, I doubt anyone would label it "simply a workplace problem." Clearly a double standard. – mcknz Oct 1 '15 at 2:46
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    @mcknz I don't know for everyone involved here, but I would react the same way for someone with THAT misguided view. It may be there is some double standard, but I would react the same way no matter the reason for the "cannot work with employee Y" – Patrice Oct 1 '15 at 13:57
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    People come from all sorts of backgrounds different than "Western" views. For example, government forced labor is part of life for people in Uzbekistan. Places in the world culturally are very different in some cases. We can't change where people are born and what culture they are born into. Sometimes that causes problems when people have very different cultural backgrounds and they, ah, let's call it clash. Someone has to help people see that difference - sometimes it will fail completely and that's ok.. – enderland Oct 1 '15 at 14:20
  • @Patrice Fair enough -- I suppose there is something to be said for civility here, even if the beliefs/views are offensive to most. – mcknz Oct 1 '15 at 16:57
  • Its interesting that the view of this post seems to suggest that Western values are in fact "correct" while others that disagree are not. – Andy Oct 4 '15 at 16:20
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    @enderland Just to give you guys some numbers, Workplace has the highest percentage of questions voted to below zero. (I leave this here as it validates your comments on how people vote.) It also has a high number of deleted questions (presumably for the same reason). – Der Kommissar Oct 6 '15 at 17:13
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    @Andy in the context of employment in a western cuture they are – Pepone Oct 10 '15 at 14:46
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    @Pepone Yet this site is not limited to only Western cultures, is it? – Andy Oct 11 '15 at 17:05
  • @Andy so a question about how to organize a slaving ring or working in a cartel death squad would be fine with you. – Pepone Oct 12 '15 at 20:03

How should we handle potentially offensive questions?

Every question is potentially offensive to someone. Everyone has a right to their opinion and beliefs, even if they aren't shared by many in the US. We need to decide if folks are free to express that right here or not.

My personal opinion - If I had seen the question earlier, I would have let the voting and answers take care of the issue at hand and provided what I would hope to be a useful answer. If I were a moderator, I'd probably have to aggressively remove many of the comments (let's be nice).

Even though the thought of hiring practices based on gender is indeed offensive to me, I wouldn't have flagged the question itself as offensive. some hiring practices are offensive to me, a question about them isn't.

If the question were still open, I think it might have been a good educational opportunity for those working in the US with a different set of beliefs. I think we missed our chance.

Oh well.

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    This is pretty similar to my thoughts, too. I posted a longer answer here that contains my perspective too - but "oh well" seems to be the best tl;dr of everything I wrote.. – enderland Sep 28 '15 at 17:26
  • What if the question said "How to prevent black people from being hired" and assume that the person's religion supported this? Same thing? – blankip Dec 14 '15 at 22:08
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    @blankip - Good point. Either everyone is allowed to express their opinions, or not - you either censor, or you don't. If you choose to censor, then you have to decide who gets to do the censoring, and what criteria they are allowed to used. As with the real question, I probably wouldn't have flagged the question as offensive and asked moderators to censor it, but instead would have relied on votes and answers to provide an education for the question writer. If I were the benevolent dictator of the world, things would be wonderful for everyone (at least in my eyes). – Joe Strazzere Dec 14 '15 at 22:46

It's mildly ironic that this all happened while I was away for a religious holiday (for which I have to spend PTO because only Christian and secular holidays are privileged where I live). But I digress.

I am disappointed by how the community handled this question. The OP wants to do something that is completely unreasonable in a western workplace (I'm assuming from the legislation he cited that he's in the US), but he came here with a real workplace problem and people chased him off. This was a lost opportunity to educate. Presumably this sort of thing is done where he comes from (he mentioned a visa issue, so he's not native).

Our community seems to be especially ready to go on the attack when somebody mentions religion. Please stop that. Address the issue and save your opinions about the reasonablness of religion for another venue. In the case of this question the OP needs to be taught that no, he can't force his religious perspective on his coworkers and the adjustment will have to come from him. In the case of the handshake question, the OP was careful to express that it was his problem and he asked how he could deal with it, not how to get others to change, and people still attacked him and ran him off.

We all are, or aspire to be, workplace professionals. Let's try harder to do that even when it's hard, even when somebody has views we find repugnant. If a question can be made to fit our site, even if it involves a controversial topic, we should help fix it. The handshake question was fine; the present question could have been recast to ask how the OP can deal with the conflict between his religious needs and an impending coworker he can't abide.

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    Yes. The reason I actually deleted the question was to prevent the further abuse to the OP after I put down the final close vote. – Jane S Sep 29 '15 at 3:48
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    THANK YOU FOR THIS. honestly, even if I disagree 10000000% with the OP's point of view, I see his question just like anyone else who would say "there's someone at work I JUST CANNOT WORK WITH, how do I deal with this?" It's definitely not a good point of view, but there IS a workplace issue for this OP. Happy to see mods who agree on that – Patrice Sep 30 '15 at 18:29
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    -1: "Our community seems to be especially ready to go on the attack when somebody mentions religion." No. Our community is quick to respond when somebody uses religion to defend an objectionable belief. Completely different. – Jim G. Sep 30 '15 at 22:30
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    @JimG. if that were true, the handshake question wouldn't have drawn the rapid, voluminous, and rude responses it did. – Monica Cellio Sep 30 '15 at 22:35
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    Thank you Monica - agreed, we need to work on this issue of name-calling other peoples' religions. The place sometimes starts looking like Reddit unfortunately – Caffeinated Oct 8 '15 at 2:37
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    @Adel when you see stuff like that - flag, flag, flag! As moderators we delete a lot of stuff here, but we don't read everything since we can't. The question there had 58 flags and nearly 100 deleted comments on it... – enderland Oct 9 '15 at 15:40

The best way to handle these is to simply downvote them, vote to close if you have the rep, and flag as offensive. It will get cleaned up in the wash by the roomba. The community actually tend to moderate these types of questions pretty well. But the faster it gets closed, the sooner there won't be lots of enraged answers.

Note that there is a distinct difference between this question and the handshake one. The handshake question is asking "How can I respectfully decline to shake the hand of a woman", as opposed to this which is, "I want to stop getting a woman hired because [reasons]." One is legal, the other is in most countries illegal and (in my female viewpoint) shows callous disregard for anyone else but themselves.

Oh, and we should all remember our be nice policy. It does no good to stoop to name calling or abusive behaviour. If you comment, be professional and polite, regardless of how outraged the question makes you.

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    This seems like the best way to handle these questions. At the risk of playing devil's advocate though, I wonder if we should have handled that question differently if the OP was located in the UAE or another country where (some version of) sharia law applies. – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 11:58
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    @Lilienthal I doubt the question would have been asked in those places, depending on what the law actually states. However the OP was trying to break a law and even quoted the US legislation he was hoping to use to do so. – Jane S Sep 28 '15 at 12:02
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    Good point. I suppose there actually isn't much value in discussing those hypotheticals and it's better to assume that the current system of votes and flags will continue to work, just as it did in this case. Mods like yourself are there to catch anything that slips through the cracks after all. – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 12:09
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    I totally agree, the handshake one was very different. – Kilisi Sep 29 '15 at 12:55
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    The best way to handle these is to simply downvote them - I completely disagree. This is one the reasons we have moderators to jump in and send people to their corners when they are behaving badly. This is a time to jump in, Lock a question, purge any comments and answers that are not incredibly appropriate and on topic, – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 29 '15 at 19:12
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    @Chad I'm saying what non-moderator members should do. They shouldn't be making comments and answers that are not incredibly appropriate and on topic. If a member feels they are incapable of being professional and polite, then simply downvote, vote to close if you feel it warrants it and you have the rep, and move on. – Jane S Sep 29 '15 at 20:53
  • Sweeping differing, controversial or questionable, even dangerous or criminal views under the rug by downvoting and deleting will not make them go away from the fabric of society. In fact,one needs to logically argue and educate if one is convinced of having a morally or factually more sound understanding. During this discourse ones' opposite might change their mind (provided they are willing to) if they see merit in the presented logic or indeed might change ones own opinion if oneself is open for objective debate and the pursuit of truth rather than ego. – DigitalBlade969 Jun 9 '18 at 20:51
  • @DigitalBlade969 Downvoting and deleting is not sweeping things under the rug. You seem to be missing the point of Stack Exchange: it is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Questions are asked, answers are given. If answers are considered useful, they are upvoted. Otherwise, they are downvoted. Those kinds of discussions are important, but places like Reddit and Quora are more appropriate for them by virtue of the format here. – Jane S Jun 9 '18 at 22:25
  • @JaneS well,that's exactly the problem,isn't it. Disregarding my personal opinion/views and instinctive reactions on the question at hand "how to prevent a female being hired", someone might answer with appropriate steps to achieve exactly what was asked. Wouldn't that be the definition of a useful answer (notwithstanding its potentially illegal or unethical implications in certain parts of the world?) therefore warrant a plethora of upvotes? See by kneejerk downvoting/deleting biased by our western views, the community resorted to censorship,not the Q&A "game". – DigitalBlade969 Jun 9 '18 at 22:55

Usually questions are of the form: "I have this undeserved problem in the workplace, or I have this fully deserved problem in the workplace, how can I fix it". Sometimes we get questions "I want to shoot myself in the foot in the workplace, what's the best way to do this". And rarely the question is "I want to shoot someone else in the foot in the workplace, how can I do this". This was (almost) one of those questions, except the question was "how can I communicate what I want", not "how can I get what I want".

Questions and answers are not read only by those who ask the question, they are read by anyone. So if the reading the question and answers are helpful to someone, I'm happy with that. Even if it isn't helpful to the original poster. If you read the thread you wouldn't have found an answer to the original question, but you would have learned that some things are illegal, you would have learned that doing things that look illegal can get you into legal trouble, and you would have learned that having certain opinions will make you generally disliked. All good things to know, if you didn't know them.


I agree with how this question was handled, but it leaves me wondering about the down-votes it received. My understanding is that the down-vote on this site should be used to indicate you feel the question or answer is poorly written or poorly crafted, but not to pass judgment on the ideas presented.

This question (now deleted, so we can't look at it more specifically) wasn't worded poorly or unclearly (in my opinion). Its idea was completely out of line, and I assume the 11 (and counting quickly) down-votes were a judgment on the idea itself.

Should there have been a reminder about the purpose of down-votes in this case? Or was the question so offensive as to merit setting aside the intended protocols of the site in order to convey our strong disapproval to the OP?

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    I've searched the metas on this before but the few "official" comments on down-votes are hard to track down. As I remember, the official party line is that all votes are to be used at each user's discretion. The SE framework attempts to guide users to use them to identify whether posts are useful and show effort by explaining that in the on-hover text of the vote arrows but in the end the choice to vote is up to the user alone. The only known exception is serial downvoting. – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 13:10
  • This answer over on Physics' meta is also worth reading: We seem to be over-eager to downvote – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 13:11
  • @Lilienthal I appreciate the input, but I have a problem with the site's content saying what down-votes should be for, and the community "understanding" ignoring it. How would a new user know anything about a community's unwritten rules, when there are written rules displayed on the page? (Having said this, I am guilty of down-voting in haste based on ideas. I try not to, and I try to clean up my votes, but after the timeout, I have to wait for an edit that may never come.) – Kent A. Sep 28 '15 at 13:15
  • @Lilienthal If you move the cursor onto the downvote button, you'll see the explanation of downvote: does not show any research effort, it is unclear or not useful. – scaaahu Sep 28 '15 at 13:26
  • Interesting point: The current tooltip for the up/down votes for answers simply says "This answer is [not] useful." For questions, in addition to the usefulness clause, the idea of the quality of the question is included (research effort). I suppose this leaves the door wide open for opinions to sway the votes. So is the "down-vote means poor writing quality" mentality what's really the unwritten rule, now? Personally, I could get behind the idea that a vote indicates my like for the question/answer, whatever my reasons. It is more intuitive that way, and could save a little bandwidth :) – Kent A. Sep 28 '15 at 14:00
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    It is "not useful" to ask "How can I do a thing that nobody should do and that is not legal where I live?" Therefore anyone who wants to downvote that question is acting in accordance with the tooltip. That said, SE wide, the tooltip is a suggestion to new users about times they might wish to downvote: it is not an explanation of all downvotes or a restrictive explanation of when downvoting is permitted. Those with the dv privilege can use it as and when they wish. – Kate Gregory Sep 28 '15 at 14:49
  • @KateGregory I'm with you on this. It would be nice to be able to down-vote based on a judgement of the value of the question/answer without feeling like I was breaking some rule or protocol, but only if that is the mutually understood community standard. (I also think being able to down-vote comments would lead to less "chat" :) – Kent A. Sep 28 '15 at 15:16
  • @scaaahu Indeed, that's what I was referring to about the SE framework recommending that downvotes be used to indicate whether a post is useful or not. However, as Kate rightly mentioned each user is allowed to (and told to) vote at his own discretion. SO had an interesting discussion on this but that site has a rather unique visitor profile that requires much more effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 18:22
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    By the way @KentAnderson I think this is a valid point to raise here but you may also want to create a separate meta discussion on the purpose of up/down votes on Workplace. It's been brought up as a problem on chat several times before but I don't think it's been discussed on meta. – Lilienthal Sep 28 '15 at 18:26
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    wouldn't the whole system become useless if you tampered with peoples down/up vote ability. If a lot of people downvote a question because they find it offensive, that in itself is useful for the OP to know, I would think. – Kilisi Sep 29 '15 at 12:59

What particularly disappoints me is the fact that, after the question was anonymized, some folks made a point of reintroducing the OP's name in the comments. Vindictive and unnecessary.

Have to admit I wasn't especially kind to the guy either.

I did upvote the responses saying "This is something you, rather than she, need to deal with; talk to your manager about work-from-home alternatives, other offices, or other ways you can buffer yourself; you can change jobs but that will probably only be a temporary measure", which were the best advice available. It may have been worth closing the question early as unanswerable for reasons of illegality, until/unless it was rephrased as "how can I make this work for me" rather than "how can I keep it from happening."

In the end he will either learn to adapt or lose his job and/or visa, so this is largely self-correcting. We really should have tried harder to just leave it at that.

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    Thanks to either you or whoever flagged that, too. Questions like this get a TON of, ah, let's call it questionable/objectionable content posted in comments and answers and flagging is so helpful for moderators. We have yet to have our minds incorporated into the Stack Exchange API yet, though I'm hopeful they develop the human-machine interface soon so we can get direct links of information without logging in ;) – enderland Sep 30 '15 at 17:42
  • If the information provided in question and answers is correct, it sounds like that person somehow convinced his manager to perform an act of illegal discrimination against a specific woman. She might be unaware what has been going on. If she did find out, she could rightfully sue the company. But some of the information necessary to prove the connection between her and the question has been deleted. So the deletion of said information could be seen as covering up somebody's illegal activities. – kasperd Oct 6 '15 at 23:29
  • I agree that people do have a right to some amount of anonymity online. But at the same time we shouldn't forget about the rights of the victim of this illegal discrimination. I don't have an answer on how to weigh those two sides. But both sides should be kept in mind. – kasperd Oct 6 '15 at 23:33
  • Public shaming is not appropriate here. Period. Even it this did eventually catch up with the OP, it would be much too late to help anyone. At best this big of nastiness gets the OP into trouble someday, if anyone happens to find the comment -- and comments are not guaranteed to persist. If you really feel a need to be a vigilante, don't do it here; if you don't feel strongly enough to take it to the authorities yourself, let it lie. Slactivism is Not Useful. – keshlam Oct 7 '15 at 2:30
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    I don't think it's necessarily self-correcting: TC admitted to having a hand in preventing a lady from being hired, illegally (he claims he sat down with his boss and convinced him a lady being brought on board would be "too much hassle, and hired a man of equal or better skill", before his self-answer was deleted). – Cloud Oct 9 '15 at 12:37
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    As I said: if you want to do something punitive, this is the wrong place – keshlam Oct 9 '15 at 12:41
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    @dogbert, on the other hand, maybe the manger went along with it because he had already ruled the person out as not being the best person for the job. Not all women get offers from interviews just like not all men do. We have no idea how good this woman was, possibly she would not have been hired in any event. – HLGEM Oct 13 '15 at 21:50

Lots of answers, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring. It's going to be short anyway.

Offence is never given. Offence is always taken. As such, I find it hard to accept the concept of an offensive question.

If a particular attitude is at odds with Western values, point it out as politely as if you were talking to the OP in person. I don't appreciate religious regulations of any kind, but that doesn't give me license to be rude to people who adhere to them.


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