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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People say stupid things all the time. When it happens at work, the consequences can be profound. But many dumb slips of the tongue turn out to be merely insensitive, not malicious. As long as the comments don’t become frequent or more severe, there won’t usually be any lasting damage.

Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations, which must be decided on the basis of an interactive discussion between the employer and employee. Some employees, perhaps sensitive about their medical histories, try to limit the information their employers can see. That can compromise the interactive process.

It may seem wrong for an employee who is out on disability leave to work another job. But firing her for allegedly lying about her medical condition may backfire in the form of a disability or retaliation claim.
The city of Brownsville has filed its answer to a former police officer’s suit alleging the city violated the ADA when it fired her shortly after discovering she suffered from Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes headaches, dry eyes and joint pain and swelling.
Federal courts are beginning to be more selective in the types of employment discrimination cases they consider. No longer can employees essentially “make a federal case” out of any workplace dispute.
If an employee requests a transfer, be sure to document that he did so.
Here’s a reminder for supervisors who participate in disciplinary decisions: Tell them to keep their personal feelings about the employee to themselves and resist the urge to bring in stereotypes. No one, for example, should comment on the employee’s nationality, national origin or other protected characteristics.
When a supervisor constantly ridicules an employee, watch out. The worker may have a hostile work environment claim if she can tie the demeaning comments to just one or two overtly sexual ones.

Do you work in an HR department that still hasn’t gotten around to creating an employee handbook? Don’t despair. As long as everyone in HR and management makes sure employees know the company won’t tolerate sexual harassment and encourages immediate reporting of harassment, you can probably escape liability by acting fast on any reports you do receive.

Have you found that some of your disciplinary rules are too lenient? Don’t hold back on stiffening your rules just because you fear the first employees subject to harsher penalties might sue you.
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