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.

Here’s a twist in discrimination law that you might never consider. If a co-worker rivalry for an open position includes threats by one worker to quit if the other is promoted and the rivalry is based on sex bias, you may face a lawsuit if you accede to the threat. That’s what happened in one recent case that made its way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Supervisors can and should be held to a higher standard when it comes to enforcing workplace rules. That includes punishing a supervisor who harasses a subordinate more harshly than a co-worker who harasses a colleague.
If you plan to offer an employee age 40 or older a severance payment in exchange for promising not to sue, don’t forget to include Age Dis­­crimi­­na­­tion in Employment Act review-and-consult language in the agreement. The ADEA has very specific requirements for allowing the employee to show severance agreements to an attorney before signing.
A bill to provide protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual em­­ployees has picked up some surprising support in the General Assembly. The bill, which was introduced with 102 co-sponsors, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
When someone claims age discrimination, he typically has to show that he was replaced by someone “significantly younger.” What that means is unclear—and courts seem in no hurry to come up with a hard-and-fast rule.
Have you recently hired or promoted younger applicants into management positions? Do they supervise older employees? If so, be sure to include age discrimination warnings in your training sessions. All too often, younger employees may make statements that older workers interpret as biased.

Employees who have to work in a hostile work environment may have a hard time doing their jobs well. When resulting poor performance leads management to fire someone, expect trouble. Your best bet is to address any hint at a hostile work environment right away.

The DOJ has reached a settlement with the city of Corpus Christi, resolving claims that the city police department’s hiring test violated Title VII. The DOJ charged that from 2005 to 2011, the police depart­­ment used a physical abilities test that unlawfully screened out female applicants for entry-level police officer positions.
Here’s an important reminder for anyone who is authorized to receive internal discrimination complaints: Always mark the exact date of every complaint in case the complaint is used later as the basis for an employee’s retaliation claim.
Q. One of our good customers—a man—insists on doing business only with the men on our staff. When approached by one of the women in our company, he tells her, “I need to deal with one of the guys.” Can we get into trouble for this if we bend to his wishes?