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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Employees who begin to feel less valued at work often look for some underlying reason. Often they focus on suspected age, sex, national origin or some other form of discrimination. Then, when a layoff or reorganization costs them their jobs, they sue. Frequently they’ll argue that they should have been offered open positions, even if it would have meant receiving a smaller salary than they had been making ...

If possible, it makes sense to have the same person provide hiring and firing input. Here’s why: Logically, it makes no sense for someone to hire an applicant despite apparent protected characteristics (e.g., gender, race, religion) and then fire that person because of those same characteristics. Although it may not be enough to get a case dismissed, courts will consider it and it may persuade a jury in your favor ...

The ADA is a tricky law. Not only is it illegal to discriminate against applicants and employees with disabilities, but it’s illegal to perceive as disabled those who actually aren’t. It’s no wonder many employers fear that making accommodations might backfire. So they put off agreeing to accommodations and wait until they're sure an employee really is disabled. But that’s the wrong response ...

Believe it or not, federal courts don’t want to micromanage every aspect of your HR function. When faced with serious claims such as discrimination, courts ask employees to prove they suffered an “adverse employment action”—major damage such as a demotion, a cut in pay or discharge. They don’t tend to sweat the small stuff, such as lousy performance appraisals ...

Everybody knows the workplace is supposed to be free of all forms of harassment. Everybody also realizes that’s the platonic ideal. The good news is that, with vigilance, you’ll protect your organization from sexual-harassment lawsuits because any harassment that surfaces won’t be pervasive and severe ...

Sometimes employees who are in trouble for poor performance try to protect themselves by reporting incidents that don’t come close to being sexual harassment. They figure that their employer won’t fire or otherwise punish them for fear of a retaliation lawsuit. But you can take heart: It’s not protected activity just because someone reports an incident. If—when viewed objectively—the conduct being reported seems far from harassment, reporting it isn’t protected, and the employee can’t charge retaliation ...

Chances are your anti-harassment policy includes instructions for reporting any problems. That’s not enough—you also must make sure the policy is implemented. But don’t worry if circumstances require you to veer slightly from the policy ...

When a supervisor enters into a sexual relationship with a subordinate, chances are things won’t go well for the company. That’s one reason you should put in place strict limits on dating for supervisors and subordinates. You can prohibit such relationships altogether, or insist that anyone contemplating dating a subordinate must notify HR first so he or she can be removed from the supervisory role before the relationship starts. Otherwise, you risk a sexual-harassment lawsuit, especially if the supervisor later punishes the subordinate ...

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was created to protect employee benefits plans. It preempts state regulation of covered plans. But many states, including Ohio, have specific laws that cover other aspects of the employment relationship. Those laws still apply in many cases, even if an employer mistakenly states ERISA covers a particular benefit ...

Ohio is an at-will employment state, meaning that employees can be fired (and quit) for any reason or no reason as long as the employer doesn’t violate a specific anti-discrimination or other law. But employers and employees can change their relationships to a contractual one by agreement. If they do, then it becomes much harder to fire that employee without a rock-solid reason ...