The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported nearly 100,000 job bias charges in the fiscal year of 2012. The most frequently filed charges were with retaliation, race, and sex discrimination, including sexual harassment. You can read more about this report here.
It is important that employees stay proactive and prevent these issues from happening. To reach this goal, what could you do to avoid discrimination charges in your workplace? Let’s take a look at the following steps which will certainly help to avoid any charges or help your case if it goes to trial.
1. Documentation and Treating All Employees the Same
Most likely, you have terminated the employee who has filed the charges for business reasons and not discrimination. The first thing to remember is to keep detailed and up-to-date records. These will be very important if problems arise later on. You should be sure to document any disciplinary actions, counseling sessions and performance reviews. This will help show that, as the employer, you provided several warnings regarding work performance and attempted to help the employee reach the expected standards.
Be fair and consistent in the way you treat all employees. Make sure that policies in your employee handbook are up to date and everyone is following those policies exactly the same.
2. Have the Person who Hired the Employee Fire the Employee
The theory behind this step is that if the person willingly hired a woman, a person of race, certain religion, etc., it is improbable that the same person could later be accused of being prejudice or discriminating. Along those lines, it is important to always have a witness when warning or terminating an employee. In fact, have someone who is in management, who will not gossip, present while having the meeting with the employee. This will help your case if a problem comes up later.
It is extremely imperative to properly train all interviewers and managers to be familiar with discrimination laws. This will help to ensure that during an interview or a meeting between a manager and current employee subjects that could be construed as discriminating will not be approached. Some laws that interviewers and managers should be familiar with are the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
4. Company Policies
First, attack the uncomfortable topic of harassment and sexual harassment in your employee handbook. Be clear about what defines harassment and sexual harassment. Employees, find out what the consequences are for violating any policy. In this step, it is imperative to treat all employees the same regarding harassment claims. Also, it is very important to take all claims seriously and conduct a thorough and proper investigation.
Additionally, have a written termination policy which explains how and why an employee can be terminated. In most cases, employment is at-will and the employee can be terminated with or without cause.
5. When Hiring, Stick to Job Requirements
In fact, make all hiring decisions on the requirements of the specific job and no other reason. Be sure to select the person that best fits those requirements and that you feel will be the best asset to your company. Do not take into account any outside factors that may lead to a discrimination lawsuit. A person does not have to be an employee of your company to file a discrimination lawsuit. In conclusion, someone can file a lawsuit against you for not hiring them if they believe or are led to believe it is because of discrimination or prejudice.
If you need more information or to read case studies, check out this article for small business owners.
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