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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When nasty racial words are tossed around in a workplace, you may think the target of those words is the only person who can sue for racial harassment. Not true. It’s not necessary for someone to have protected status to complain about harassment or discrimination.

Sometimes, the most sensible solution to an ongoing em­­ployee complaint is to transfer the em­­ployee. But some employees may see that as retaliation, especially if the “fresh start” turns out to be a false one. Such a retaliation claim is unlikely to succeed as long as there was no change in title, major job responsibilities, pay and benefits.

Here’s some good, sensible news. If you hire a consulting firm and that company works on site, you won’t be liable for harassment between consulting firm employees.
The EEOC’s Raleigh office has signed a Memorandum of Under­­stand­­ing with the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, agreeing to continue “an ongoing collaborative relationship between these two entities to provide Mexi­­can nationals with information, guidance, and access to resources on the prevention of discrimination in the workplace.”

If you sometimes need temporary help, you probably turn to companies that hire and manage day laborers. Keep the relationship strictly professional to avoid potential liability as an employer. Instruct supervisors to defer any questions on pay, hours and potential hiring to the temp agency and remind them not to promise anything.

When an employee complains about sexual harassment, how you handle it makes a big difference. If you ignore the complaint—or worse, blame the victim and punish her—you’re risking a laundry list of claims under federal and state laws.
If you don’t terminate an employee for an obvious firing of­­fense but later use that reason to justify a discharge, you’d better have a good explanation for the delay. Otherwise, a jury may see the move as a pretext for some form of discrimination.
Don’t let what you know is a meritless complaint keep you from disciplining an employee. If you can show the process was already under way and you had a solid business reason, go ahead and discipline the worker.
Employers that always have a clear and solid business reason for discharging employees seldom lose discrimination cases. That’s because even if a protected class member is affected, it’s very hard to counter the employer’s claim it terminated the employee for legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.
Good news if you’re worried about firing an employee who has filed a sexual harassment complaint. If your investigation concludes the complaining worker was also partly at fault, he won’t be able to win a wrongful discharge case—unless he can prove that his underlying complaint was a “substantial motivating reason” for his termination.
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