The best way to avoid employment discrimination lawsuits: Make sure managers encourage employees to come forward with their concerns and complaints. Doing so shows that the company takes discrimination seriously, allows it to fix genuine problems fast and cuts the risk of a lawsuit down the line.
That’s why HR should remind supervisors and managers that complaints are welcome. Tell bosses that under no circumstances should they discourage employees from voicing concerns. If managers try to snuff complaints, the company may find itself in the tight—and expensive—spot in which the following employer found itself.
Recent case: Ishcarbhai Amin, who was born in India, complained to his supervisors about race discrimination. He sent managers a memo detailing his battles with “cultural ladders” and “racism.”
Shortly after, someone from HR allegedly told him to stop submitting written complaints. Then a supervisor said the same. Amin persisted, to the point that another supervisor said it seemed like Amin submitted complaints “on a weekly basis.”
Finally, the employer fired Amin shortly after he complained about pay inequities during an annual review. He sued.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said his allegations deserved a trial. The persistent attitude toward complaints and the close timing between his final complaint and discharge will now be reviewed by a jury, which will decide whether the two were linked. (Amin v. Akzo Nobel Chemical, No. 06-5166, 2nd Cir., 2008)
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