Discipline, by any name, offers defense against bias claims

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When Hattie Star complained that a co-worker had grabbed her, Star's supervisor confronted the alleged harasser and told him to stay away from her. The supervisor reported the allegations to his superior, who ordered an investigation.

In addition, as a precautionary measure, the employer transferred the alleged harasser to a different shift. Star still wasn't satisfied, and she filed a hostile work environment complaint, claiming the response was inadequate because no formal disciplinary action had been taken.

But the court sided with the employer. It said that counseling and admonishing the offender can be an adequate response to harassment. It doesn't matter that the employer labeled its efforts as "precautionary" instead of "disciplinary." (Star v. West, No. 99-55624, 9th Cir., 2001)

Advice: Courts will look at your actions and results, not labels. No matter what you call your response to a harassment complaint, make sure it will fix the situation.

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