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.

Some employees are simply difficult to manage. They start arguments and may see harassment or discrimination at every turn. Sometimes they cross a line, implying they could get violent. How you handle their complaints can spell the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.

Q. We recently made a job offer to someone, rescinded the offer and then hired another applicant two months later. Is there anything illegal about that?

Courts don’t want to second-guess employers unless they feel they have no alternative. When an employee charges discrimination based on different treatment because he belongs to a protected class, the court first looks at the employer’s rules and tries to see if they have been enforced consistently.
Six Los Angeles-area soda company employees will share a whopping $17.7 million in damages awarded after they successfully sued the Dr Pepper Snapple Group and related companies for age discrimination.
Chances are, you have a sexual harassment policy that gives em­­ployees several ways to report har­­ass­­ment—maybe including a hotline for phoning in problems. But beware: An employee may file an EEOC complaint before you even have a chance to investigate alleged harassment. If that happens, your hotline records may play a crucial role in your defense.

If you want a termination decision to stand up in court, make sure you carefully document all discipline that occurred before the firing—and do so at the time the discipline occurs. Otherwise, chances are a court or jury may assume the earlier incidents didn’t happen.

Butterball, the Garner-based turkey processor, faces EEOC disability discrimination charges after it allegedly tolerated harassment against an HIV-positive employee and then fired her after she complained.

When you terminate an emp­loyee for a good, obvious and well-documented reason, you seldom have to worry about a surprise harassment complaint. Former employees file them fairly frequently, but courts tend to view them with suspicion. The obvious question: Why didn’t the employee complain about harassment before?

Some employees never forget an indignity. Years later, they may sue over something unrelated to the original wrong and try to bring the old offense into the case. That sometimes works if their claim alleges a hostile work environment. But if the hostility stopped years ago, chances are the court won’t consider the old claim.

An Ohio Panera Bread franchisee faces an additional lawsuit charging racial discrimination in the wake of a manager’s suit that claims he was fired for refusing to follow a racist directive.