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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If you’ve been looking for definitive guidance on California’s Sexual Harassment Training Law (AB 1825), it’s finally here. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission issued final regulations implementing this first-in-the-nation law on April 23, and the Office of Administrative Law approved the regulations on July 18. The regulations include specific direction on the type, length and frequency of harassment training that California employers must provide to their employees ...

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, the law clearly states, “Freedom from employment discrimination on account of sexual orientation is a civil right.” Make sure supervisors know: Comments about an employee’s sexual orientation simply aren’t appropriate in the workplace. They’ll lead to trouble ...

Can employees sue for a company practice that was perfectly lawful when it was implemented but has since become illegal? Yes, according to a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case in which employees complained that a company policy didn’t give them full-service credit toward their retirement benefits during their pregnancy leave ...

Under Title VII’s sexual harassment provisions, employers have few defenses if supervisors harass subordinates to the point that there’s a hostile work environment. But if the employer has an effective and well-designed complaint process that promises relief, it can reduce its liability—usually even if the harassed employee doesn’t take advantage of that process ...

You know you aren’t supposed to consider race in hiring decisions. And ideally your organization takes steps to ensure the hiring process is as color-blind as possible. But let’s face facts: Sometimes the person screening applications is going to know the job-seeker’s race (especially when a current employee seeks a promotion). Denying that fact won’t help you if an applicant who doesn’t get the job decides to sue—and it may actually hurt. The applicant can raise the denial as evidence of illegal motive or intent ...

California employees have a right to a work environment free of sexual harassment, and employers are obligated to prevent harassment. But that doesn’t mean that every comment, gesture or look that may be perceived as sexual can be considered harassment ...

While you can encourage employees to follow certain Judeo-Christian values at work, such as cooperation, honesty and kindness, it’s never appropriate to require adherence to a particular religion or religious practices. Even if your organization’s leaders have strong religious beliefs, it must accommodate workers who don’t agree with that stance. That may mean excusing workers from retreats, prayer groups or other religious-based activities ...

Does your organization have a blanket policy of refusing to hire any applicant with a criminal record? If so, make sure you can explain exactly why. A recent Pennsylvania court ruling shows that across-the-board “no ex-cons” policies can quickly run into legal trouble unless you can prove the restriction for a specific position was “job-related and consistent with business necessity” ...

Q. We provide short-term disability leave to new mothers. Is there any reason we can’t run that leave concurrent with FMLA leave? —S.B., Washington ...

Q. We want to run paid time off concurrent with FMLA leave so employees don’t receive more than 12 weeks off (paid and unpaid combined). What if an employee says she’s taking vacation time, but we know it’s for medical tests? Can we force her to get a medical certification so we can subtract the paid vacation time? —L.L., Georgia ...