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Take responsibility for preventing harassment, discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

It isn’t enough to fix discrimination and end harassment when you find out about it. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) your organization has a duty to prevent it. FEHA makes it an unlawful employment practice “for an employer ... to fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring” in the workplace.

Those steps should include making sure no one utters slurs, tags offensive graffiti or punishes employees who complain about discrimination or harassment.

Recent case: Antia Lelaind, who is black, worked for the City and County of San Francisco. She complained when a white male subordinate appeared to threaten another black subordinate and when nooses appeared in the workplace.

When the black subordinate sued for discrimination, Lelaind testified on her behalf. She claimed she was discriminated against and retaliated against for doing so. Lelaind said she was moved, given no work, no access to her computer and no office. She said her performance evaluation was downgraded.

Lelaind sued under both state and federal laws. She lost her federal and FEHA claims on a technicality, but the court said her failure-to-prevent-retaliation and discrimination claims could go to trial. (Lelaind v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 06-05870, ND CA, 2008)

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