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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A single, isolated comment—especially if the speaker isn’t a co-worker or supervisor—isn’t sufficient grounds for alleging discrimination. Complaining about it doesn’t amount to protected activity.
Consider this central Pennsylvania case that is going to trial soon. A judge has concluded that not only can a man be sexually harassed, but he may be due punitive damages for his suffering.
Dallas District Attorney Susan Hawk, who admits she has a history of mental illness and drug abuse, checked herself into an inpatient treatment facility. Now, she maintains she is back on the job and fully capable of performing it. Not everyone agrees.
Sensitive workers may perceive everyday interactions as harassment. But courts don’t measure whether workplace hostility exists based on that employee’s subjective assessment of the situation. Instead, a court will focus on how a hypothetical “reasonable” employee would view it.
Employees who complain to HR or management about alleged discrimination or harassment are engaging in protected activity and can’t be punished for complaining. But what if the employee can’t summon the courage to complain and, instead, sends someone else? Is sending a spokesperson to complain also protected activity? A federal court says “yes,” at least when it’s the employee’s spouse who takes action.
Are you settling a discrimination case with termination and a back or front pay agreement? Be sure to work with counsel to find the most effective way to apply the payment. Done properly, a back pay or front pay lump sum may mean the employee can’t collect unemployment compensation payments.
Employers that have strict codes of conduct prohibiting harassment of any kind can still punish employees whose religious beliefs are behind their harassment of gay co-workers. You can’t interfere with an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, but you can punish religious “expression” that interferes with another employee’s rights.
Sometimes, applicants don’t know how much money to ask for. That’s especially true if their target employer isn’t open about salary ranges or how much it is willing to pay for a particular job. What should you do if an applicant is asking for less money than the position potentially pays?
Make sure that any entity you hire to conduct fitness-for-duty exams understands their responsibility to exclude genetic information requests from the determination. Otherwise, you may be liable for Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act violations. The employee doesn’t have to add the providers to the lawsuit.
Most managers know that it’s against the law to discriminate against employees and applicants because of their race, gender, age, religion or disability. But you may not know that those same federal laws also make it illegal for employers and supervisors to retaliate in any way against employees who voice complaints about on-the-job discrimination.