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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Q. As a California employer, I realize that I cannot discriminate against employees who belong to protected groups. But what if I mistakenly think that an employee is or is not a member of one of these groups, and accidentally treat him or her in a way that is discriminatory?
Q. I own and run a paper company in Texas. Some of my employees who are cigarette smokers regularly take more breaks than the two, 15-minute breaks that are allowed under their employment contract—and some of the nonsmokers in the office are getting angry. When I confront the smokers about this conduct, I am increasingly hearing them make an unusual claim—that they have a “disability” and are protected by law. What should I do?
Texas Sen. Jose Rodriguez has proposed a bill barring discrimination against the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
Shannon Miller is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA women’s hockey history, but the University of Minnesota-Duluth concluded she and her all female coaching staff were a luxury it could no longer afford. Citing budgetary reasons, UM-D announced it would not renew their contracts.
Speaking at HR Specialist’s 11th annual Labor & Employment Law Advanced Practices Symposium in Las Vegas earlier this month, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said many employers seem to have an unusual workplace discrimination blind-spot.

Employers with a robust anti-harassment policy can sometimes escape liability if employees unreasonably fail to take advantage of the policy to report alleged harassment. The idea is that employers should have a chance to fix the problem. But if your process is somehow stacked against alleged victims, don’t expect a court to let you off the hook.

Employees who feel so harassed that they have no choice but to quit can still sue. Cut your liability for what’s known as constructive discharge by transferring the employee.
Here’s a warning for new supervisors who want to replace long-term employees with individuals of their own choosing: They could be courting a discrimination lawsuit if the replacements belong to a different protected class and aren’t as qualified as those being replaced.
Asking a simple question such as what type of accent an employee has or what country he grew up in won’t be enough to prove national-origin discrimination. Courts expect employees to talk to one another and without evidence that curiosity about an accent or a co-worker’s background is tied to some sort of discrimination, judges won’t hold employers liable for national-origin discrimination.
A White House executive order that went into effect April 8 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
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