Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and harassment claims often increase in a down economy. Learn the proper techniques for conducing proper workplace harassment investigations, providing sexual harassment training, and more to reduce claims of employment discrimination and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

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If you don’t know an employee has engaged in so-called protected activity, you can’t be liable for retaliation. A recent case demonstrates this.
You’re risking trouble if you don’t have an anti-harassment and discrimination policy that allows employees to report discrimination and harassment.

Sure, judges expect employers to keep the work environment relatively free from harassment, at least when slurs and other bad behavior come from co-workers and supervisors. But a different, more lenient standard applies when the source is outside the company’s direct control.

Employers that create and implement clear, well-publicized policies for reporting sexual and other forms of harassment can defeat many co-worker harassment claims. The key is to come up with a specific process featuring more than one avenue through which employees can complain. Then let employees know it’s there for their use.

In order to claim that a transfer or a realignment of duties qualifies as an adverse employment action, employees must show that the transfer or job changes were somehow potentially harmful. That’s especially true in the case of job changes that spring from a lateral move across the organization chart, with the same pay and benefits.

Federal law protects applicants who belong to the military reserves from discrimination based on their service, and considering their military obligations when making hiring decisions is illegal. If anyone involved in hiring ex­­presses reluctance to hire a candidate because of his or her service, expect legal trouble. Make absolutely sure you had valid reasons for picking other candidates.

Sometimes, employees hold back on reporting sexual harassment out of fear, especially if the perpetrator is a supervisor. The first you hear about it may be during the termination meeting. If that happens, suspend the employee instead of firing him. That will give you time to investigate.

An employee who sues under the EPA can’t pick and choose to whom she compares herself—for example, by selecting a man who holds the same job who happens to make more. She must consider all men and women in the same job classification.

Employees have many avenues to sue their employers for alleged discrimination. Most are common and have clear-cut deadlines. Some are more exotic. Consider, for example, an employee’s right to sue over her employer’s alleged discrimination against her because of who she associates with. Here’s what happened when one worker waited more than four years to make a so-called Section 1981 civil rights claim.

Older workers tend to have more overall experience and may seem overqualified for entry-level positions. Don’t reject those candidates, though. Doing so may set you up for a discrimination lawsuit.
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