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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.

Not all discrimination cases are created equal. For example, race discrimination is prohibited by two laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a much older statute called Section 1981. Enacted following the Civil War, Section 1981 bans discrimination based on race in contracting. It gives employees claiming race discrimination one more way to sue.

Most religious discrimination lawsuits involve allegations of subtle mistakes—e.g., a manager didn’t understand that an em­­ployee had a legitimate need for religious accommodation. But there was nothing subtle about the allegations in a re­­­­cently settled case in­­volving Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp.
Winona-based Hal Leonard Publishing Co. has settled a sexual harassment class action suit with the EEOC. The music publisher will pay $150,000 to a class of women who claim they had to endure unwanted grabbing, squeezing and sexual innuendo.
The key to preventing most har­­assment lawsuits lies in properly handling the situation when you first learn of a problem. A quick and effective response that stops the hostility right away is essential.

Courts hold white employees who allege racial discrimination to a slightly higher standard than members of other protected classes. The higher standard is met if the white employee can show that the decision-maker is a member of another protected class.

The state Department of Human Services failed to check educational and employment references for the director of the state’s largest mental hospital, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio.
Here’s something to keep in mind if you’re contemplating a reduction in force: If you plan to offer severance packages in exchange for a liability release, make sure you aren’t too selective about who gets the best deals.

Here’s a tip that may prove in­­valuable if a former employee decides to sue over an alleged hostile work environment: Track and respond to every reported incident. That way, should a lawsuit later allege additional, more severe incidents, you are in a good position to argue they never happened.

You’ll rarely lose a termination-related lawsuit if your handbook contains clear rules that you follow consistently. That’s because when everyone who breaks the same rule is equitably disciplined, fired employees will have a hard time finding ­workers outside their protected class who were treated more favorably than they were.
Once in a while, promotions just don’t work out. Someone who was great at one job might bomb at another. That’s especially true if the new job involves different skills and talents. Don’t let past performance make you hesitate to discipline.