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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Waconia-based Applied Vacuum Technologies (AVT) has settled a disability discrimination suit with the EEOC. A former employee had filed the complaint after the company terminated him.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston has ruled unanimously that firing a woman because she is lactating is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.
In a major victory for employers, the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that, in Title VII discrimination cases, only someone with the power to take “tangible employment action” can be considered a supervisor. The June 24 decision in Vance v. Ball State will make it harder for employees to sue for supervisor bias.
A Pennsylvania-based energy-industry staffing firm has agreed to pay $190,000 to a black former employee to settle charges that a foreman har­­assed and physically abused the man because of his race.

You never know which fired em­­ployee might sue or for what reason. That’s why you should always carefully document all discipline, up to and including the final reason for discharge. The fact is, a legitimate business reason almost always defeats a discrimination claim.

How often have you worried about disciplining the only employee who belongs to a particular protected class? You probably feared that the employee would sue, alleging bias. Relax. Being the only black … or Asian … or female employee doesn’t confer any particular advantage in a discrimination lawsuit.
Employees who serve in the military are entitled to return to their jobs after their active duty ends and otherwise receive special consideration for service. But those rights have limits.
In some rare cases, employers can win a case in which they disciplined or terminated an employee for illegal reasons. Usually, the employer has to pay the employee’s legal costs. But it’s been an open question whether that’s true in “mixed-motive” retaliation cases. Now the 5th Circuit has clarified that the em­­ployer isn’t on the hook for em­­ployee attorneys’ fees.
Courts are getting quicker with the gavel when it looks like a lawsuit might have been filed by an overly sensitive employee who perceives vague comments as harassment.
Here’s something to warn super­visors about after an employee has filed a discrimination or harassment complaint: Even if the initial complaint proves unfounded or too minor to be illegal, any punishment the complaining employee experiences later may amount to retaliation.
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