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.
Q. One of our employees notified us that he cannot work on certain days of the week for religious reasons. Are we required to accommodate the employee’s request and work around his requested days off?
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), California’s civil rights agency, submits an annual report each calendar year to the governor and the state legislature. The latest report shows growing trends toward more filings related to disability, race and gender-based discrimination.
Don’t let your organization fall into the retaliation trap. Make sure all supervisors understand that nothing should change for an employee after he files a discrimination complaint without prior approval from HR. Then, act only if it’s clear the proposed action has nothing to do with the complaint.
Do you have a difficult employee you just know is going to sue you if you fire him? That’s no reason to treat him with kid gloves. Just make sure you have a rock-solid reason for the discharge. You may still be sued, but the case likely won’t go far.
Sometimes, employees’ social interactions cross the line from productive to disruptive. Before you punish friendly co-workers, consider quantifying their behavior. That makes it easier to defend against charges that you singled out some chatty co-workers for harsher treatment than others based on their protected status.
Benefits like vacation, sick leave, relocation payments and the like must be provided equally to all similarly situated employees. Don’t reward some with additional perks and leave others out—unless you’re willing to risk a lawsuit.
A waitress, who suffers from dwarfism, saw her hours reduced and was fired after she repeatedly requested that her serving shelf be lowered back to where her former manager put it.
Employees who complain about discrimination or other problems by going to HR shouldn’t be punished for doing so. That includes the mere threat of punishment, whether or not that punishment is carried out.
Supervisors should avoid any age-related references, but don’t despair if you learn someone made such a comment—as long as nothing else points to age discrimination. Simply warn the boss to watch what he or she says in the future.
Before outsourcing, carefully lay the groundwork. Document the underlying financial and practical reasons, especially if the department is troubled and some employees have filed discrimination or harassment complaints.