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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.

Q. Other than race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age and disability, are there any other protected classifications under Texas law that might limit an employer’s right to terminate an at-will worker employed?
Marymount Manhattan College’s refusal to hire a 64-year-old choreography instructor for a tenure-track position has left the New York City liberal arts school tap dancing around age discrimination charges.
Some employees who are being sexually harassed may be embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it. Rather than come out and say what happened, they beat around the bush. Smart employers document how they handle vague complaints—and take them just as seriously as other complaints.
An electrician with 25 years of service to the Plano Independent School District has sued, alleging he was fired because of his age, not because the district needed to cut staff.

If you set rules for employees to follow, then make sure everyone in the organization follows them. That includes supervisors. Otherwise, your policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

Some supervisors are more forgiving than others. Many times, that means a marginal employee may never improve until a new supervisor arrives and insists on better performance. If that happens and the employee struggles to rise to the occasion, be careful before you terminate her.

When employees face progressive discipline and think they might be fired, they sometimes suddenly start complaining about alleged sexual harassment. The underlying reason may be legitimate—or it may just be a ploy to stop discipline. It doesn’t mean all discipline has to be put on hold.

Ever since enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, pay equity has been a hot employment law topic. In the intervening years, many employers have proactively gone over their pay scales and made adjustments after discovering apparent pay inequalities that crept in over the years.
The 7th Circuit recently considered for the first time whether an employee can be individually liable under a “cat’s paw” theory of retaliation under Section 1981. In Smith v. Bray the court held that an employee could sue an HR manager individually for retaliating against him by influencing the decision to fire him.

All employees are supposed to be treated equitably, regardless of their protected class. But just as each employee is different, so may discipline sometimes differ. To account for those differences, be very specific about the underlying reasons for your discipline.