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.

Two former bartenders at Houston’s Berryhill Baja Grill have filed sexual harassment suits against the restaurant, alleging that a manager constantly harassed and groped them—and at least once, exposed himself to them.

Sexual harassment runs the gamut, from out-and-out assault to un­­welcome flirting. No sane em­­ployer would hesitate to fire someone who physically harmed a co-worker. But for less severe, isolated incidents, less drastic action may be reasonable—as long as it solves the problem.

Some employees can never seem to see that their bad attitudes and behaviors cause workplace problems. Confronted with complaints, they inevitably claim their subordinates or customers are wrong. When they’re finally terminated, they're quite likely to sue. That’s when it’s handy to have a performance appraisal process that uses 360-degree reviews.

When you have to investigate allegations that may lead to termination, it’s a good practice to conduct that investigation as independently as possible. That often means you will have to leave out of the picture any supervisors who have a negative history with the employee.

Public employees don’t lose all privacy rights just because they work for the government. But that privacy is subject to limitations.
The fastest growing category of discrimination complaints is retaliation. The reason is simple: They are easier to win than underlying discrimination cases. All an employee has to prove is that his employer punished him in a way that would dissuade a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place. Be prepared.
Some forms of racial intimidation are so offensive that even one incident may be enough to create liability, unlessthe employer acts fast. Racially hostile graffiti is one example. If you don’t take steps to cover it and prevent recurrence, even one offensive tag can mean liability.

If you receive an anonymous complaint about a hostile workplace, launch an investigation right away. That way, if an employee later sues, you can easily compare what he said to the investigator with what he remembers now.

There’s a fine line between horsing around and true sexual har­­ass­­ment. But if you ignore that line—or guess wrong about whether a supervisor has crossed the line—you may find yourself at the mercy of a jury.
The city of Greensboro is considering an offer to settle a racial discrimi­­na­­tion lawsuit filed by longtime athletic director Jean Jackson. Jackson, who is black, claims the city regularly promotes white employees to management jobs without openly advertising the positions.