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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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.
Disabled employees who need reasonable accommodations can’t jump the gun and sue prematurely. If they continue doing their jobs and their employer does not take any ad­­verse action against them, they don’t yet have grounds for an ADA lawsuit.
Nick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Houston faces an EEOC lawsuit after it allegedly stopped accommodating a disabled em­­ployee with dwarfism.
Some employers want to avoid litigation and don’t like to discipline someone they are sure will sue. That can be a mistake, especially if the employee in question is harassing or discriminating against others.
Q. We have a pregnant employee who works as a nurse and has asked that she be excused from lifting patients during her pregnancy. Do we have to grant her request?
An 80-year-old secretary who had held her position at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in York was terminated after months of what she claims was harassment aimed at ­driving her out of her job.
While a real adverse employment action may trigger a retaliation claim, many minor changes aren’t truly adverse. For example, moving an employee to a different office without changing anything substantial about his job probably isn’t retaliation.
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