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Best bet: Always investigate hostile environment claims

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

You’ve heard a rumor that one of your employees is looking for or has already accepted another job. Then you call him into a meeting to discuss the matter. You ask whether the rumor is true.
    That’s when the employee admits the job hunt, but hits you with the reason: He claims the work environment is so hostile that he has no choice but to look. What’s your next step? Do you fire him since he’s looking for other work? Or do you tell him you will investigate his claims and then follow up?
    If you chose to fire him, you may have bought yourself a lawsuit.
    As the following case shows, discharging someone who just told you about alleged harassment almost guarantees that a discrimination and retaliation case will go to court to be decided by a jury.
    Recent case: Roy Chetal, a Hindu of Indian descent, worked as a mortgage loan officer for BLS Funding. He claimed that during his tenure, his supervisors called him dot-head, bin Laden, snake charmer and worse.
    When the vice president heard Chetal might be looking for another job, he called a meeting. Chetal admitted he was looking “because of the harassment. I want it to stop … . That’s why I am looking to go elsewhere.” The VP immediately fired him and never investigated.
    Chetal sued, alleging harassment, national origin discrimination and retaliation. The federal court hearing his case ordered a trial, reasoning that firing an employee right after he complained about harassment and discrimination is certainly suspect. (Chetal v. BLS Funding, No. 05-CV-3014, ED NY, 2007)

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