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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An employee who sues under the EPA can’t pick and choose to whom she compares herself—for example, by selecting a man who holds the same job who happens to make more. She must consider all men and women in the same job classification.

Employees have many avenues to sue their employers for alleged discrimination. Most are common and have clear-cut deadlines. Some are more exotic. Consider, for example, an employee’s right to sue over her employer’s alleged discrimination against her because of who she associates with. Here’s what happened when one worker waited more than four years to make a so-called Section 1981 civil rights claim.

Older workers tend to have more overall experience and may seem overqualified for entry-level positions. Don’t reject those candidates, though. Doing so may set you up for a discrimination lawsuit.
In a sudden reversal, New York-based Saks Fifth Avenue has elected to settle a sex discrimination complaint filed by a transgender employee at the company’s store in Houston.
A federal appeals court has ruled that telecommuting is not always a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The case involved a Ford employee suffering from a disability, but the court found that on-site attendance was an essential function of the plaintiff’s job.

A new employee says her co-worker has sexually harassed her. You investigate and discover she’s telling the truth. You discipline the co-worker. Is that the end of the matter? Not if the new employee won’t stop talking about what happened and it’s beginning to interfere with her ability to get her job done.

It’s illegal to punish employees for engaging in protected activity. But for an employer to be liable, the punishment would have to be significant. Minor changes in an employee’s job aren’t enough.

If your employee handbook hasn’t been updated in the past six months, it’s out of date. Because employment laws and your business are in a constant state of flux, it’s critical to keep your personnel policies up-to-date. In light of recent legal changes, be sure your policies include these updates:

Before you fire a worker for making a serious mistake, take into account his or her past disciplinary history and make it part of your decision-making process. That way, should the worker challenge the decision by claiming others outside his protected class were treated more leniently, you have that past discipline as support for a harsher punishment.

Remind managers and supervisors that all qualified employees, regardless of age, should be offered appropriate training. Telling older workers that they may not succeed can mean a big lawsuit loss later.

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