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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Suppose your organization decides to alter its retirement plan. You shoot out an e-mail about the change, but fail to secure written proof that employees have read and understand the modifications. Three months later, an employee retires based on promises made in the old retirement plan, resulting in lost pension dollars. He sues, saying he never got wind of the retirement-plan change. This true story occurs surprisingly often in U.S. workplaces ...

Under the Indiana Civil Rights Act, it’s unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry. The law prohibits discrimination in education, employment, access to public conveniences and accommodations, as well as real estate transactions ...

Local governments in North Carolina sometimes legislate their own rules for employers within their jurisdictions. For example, Durham County and the city of Durham have living-wage laws stipulating higher pay than the state minimum wage ($6.15 per hour) while Orange County has its own human rights ordinance ...

Indiana’s unemployment compensation system, like that of many other states, provides temporary payments to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The program draws from a public policy that assumes “economic insecurity due to unemployment is … a serious menace to the health, morale, and welfare of the people of this state and to the maintenance of public order” and is “essential to public welfare.” Indiana administers its unemployment compensation program through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (www.in.gov/dwd/) ...

A federal jury has awarded a Tyson Foods supervisor $1 million, illustrating again that preventing racial discrimination is much cheaper than trying to litigate your way out of a preventable lawsuit. Take this opportunity to remind managers that what they say does matter.

Faced with a performance problem, too many employers seize on the first reason to discharge an employee instead of thoroughly reviewing the person’s work and documenting any problems in his or her file. That’s fine, if the firing rationale stands up to scrutiny and the employee doesn’t sue. But if the employee claims some form of discrimination, you want the reason you chose to be rock-solid ...

Remind supervisors, managers and HR staff: Don’t brush off or make light of sexual harassment complaints. Doing so can just add more fuel to the fire. When employees are ignored, they may begin to see every slight that comes their way—getting the cold shoulder at meetings or missing out on promotions—as retaliation for voicing their concerns about sexually hostile behavior. And that can make them much more likely to file lawsuits against your company ...

When it comes to determining employee wrongdoing and setting punishment, it’s essential to use a  complete and independent investigative process. Otherwise, the company can wind up being responsible if it turns out that a supervisor who was “out to get” an employee—perhaps in retaliation for filing a discrimination claim— trumped up performance problems or other employee deficiencies ...

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s known mental disabilities. Under FEHA, something as simple as a new employee telling her manager that she has a learning disability and had taken special education classes triggers the employer’s responsibility to consider accommodations ...

As if you don’t have enough to worry about. Now a federal court interpreting California law has concluded that supervisors and managers may be personally liable if they don’t provide a harassment-free work environment or if they harass a disabled employee ...