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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In a major victory for employers, the Supreme Court in June ruled that, in Title VII cases, only someone with the power to take “tangible employment action” can be considered a supervisor. The Court’s decision in Vance v. Ball State will make it harder for employees to sue for supervisor bias, a claim that carries strict employer liability.
Here’s some good news for those worried about absolute fairness in discipline: You have more latitude than you may think. Courts will use another employee’s lighter discipline as discrimination evidence only if the two employees being compared committed offenses of “comparable seriousness,” which generally means their wrongdoing was “nearly identical.”
Employers sometimes mess up for perfectly innocent reasons. Everybody makes mistakes, and courts are usually quite hesitant to punish those mistakes if there’s no evidence showing some nefarious intent to harm an employee.
Too many employers assume they can simply discharge a worker who isn’t yet eligible for FMLA leave, doesn’t have any other leave available and can’t work for a short period of time. That’s simply not always true. If the employee qualifies as disabled under the ADA, he may be entitled to a short leave as a reasonable accommodation.
Women’s clothing retailer Wet Seal has agreed to settle a class-action race discrimination suit for $7.5 million. Out of those funds, $5.58 million will go to compensate 1,600 current and former black managers for lost pay and promotions, termination and emotional distress.
The office is no place to discuss gender roles or women’s presence in the workplace. Be sure to warn supervisors against such talk, even in private.
Here’s a reminder to make sure supervisors stay clear of language or commentary that could be viewed as racist.
Don’t assume that just because a manager is in charge of subordinates and champions their discrimination complaints as part of her job, she isn’t engaged in protected activity. It probably is, and any action you take against her can be the basis for a retaliation lawsuit.
Here’s an important warning for employers that end discrimination or harassment lawsuits with settlement agreements that include a confidentiality clause: Keep those terms confidential and accessible only to those who absolutely need to know. Otherwise, you could wind up facing a retaliation lawsuit if word of the settlement leaks out ...
Here’s a case that shows how dangerous it can be to have a sexual harasser on board—especially if he is a manager.