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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The Minnesota Supreme Court has issued a ruling that ­clarifies what employees have to show in order to win a sexual harassment case under the MHRA. It concluded that employees who work in a sexually hostile work environment don’t have to lose pay or benefits to win a case. Nor is it a defense that the harasser was an equal opportunity harasser who targeted both men and women.
A San Francisco jury has awarded $2,729,037 to five former employees of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who alleged wrongful termination and breach of their employment contracts.
While management should strive for as cordial a workplace as practically possible, don’t worry if yours sometimes falls short. Don’t take complaints about petty slights and behaviors too seriously if you are sure there isn’t more below the ­surface.
Remind supervisors that treating employees (or applicants) less favorably because they have caregiving responsibilities can quickly trigger a lawsuit—and that’s more true now than ever. Your management training sessions should include in­­for­­mation on the FMLA, ADA and other laws that affect the issue.

Of course you have an anti-­discrimination and anti-harassment policy. You make sure employees know about it. You even make it easy for employees to use the policy. But all that can be for naught if you’re unable to track those complaints.

Here’s a situation that should send you straight to your attorney’s office. If you fire an employee because you discovered her spouse works for the competition, you may be violating the marital status discrimination clause in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA).
Here’s a tip that could save you thousands in legal bills and penalties: When you are asked to terminate a poor performer who previously complained about harassment, make sure her performance problems didn’t suddenly emerge after the complaint. That could be a clear indication of retaliation.
Companies that don’t change with the times risk going out of business. But change can be uncomfortable for employees, especially if it affects them directly in lost pay, status or even continued employment. Don’t let the possibility of a lawsuit keep you from making necessary adjustments.
Q. An employee confided in a regional VP that their boss had invited a co-worker to have a drink in his hotel room while they were attending a conference. When she declined, the boss became angry. Now, the boss has reported the co-worker for leaving work early without permission. The employee doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her friend, but she can’t let this go without telling someone. The co-worker refuses to come forward herself out of fear of retaliation. What should we do?
Major League Soccer team Chivas USA, which plays its home games in suburban Los Angeles, has been sued for race and ethnic discrimination by two former youth coaches. They claim they were fired because they are not Mexican or Latino.
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