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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Employers shouldn’t worry too much about firing an employee they believe sexually harassed another employee. As long as you conduct an investigation and reasonably believe the employee broke company rules against harassment, a court likely won’t second-guess your judgment. You don’t have to be absolutely right… just honest.
Sometimes, employees complain about racial harassment but don’t sue right away. Don’t think the problem will go away just because no one has filed an EEOC complaint.
A woman doesn’t have to be pregnant to sue for discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Wait, what?
Politics sometimes come up when co-workers talk. As long as what’s said isn’t overtly offensive, those discussions don’t create a hostile work environment—even if some employees are sensitive about the subject matter.
Q. An employee recently filed suit claiming race discrimination. What kinds of damages can he sue for, and what compensation could he receive?
Q. Jim has been a security guard for my company for over 20 years, and has always performed his duties without problem. Since his 60th birthday a few years ago, however, Jim has become steadily less able to walk the required distances during his rounds, and has also been forgetting crucial requirements of his position. Am I allowed to discharge him?

Here’s a big reason to ban supervisor/subordinate relationships: When those affairs end, trouble for employers often begins. The subordinate, who may have been a willing participant, may now claim she was being sexually harassed. Or the supervisor may punish the subordinate for cutting off the relationship. Either way, there’s probably a lawsuit coming.

Sometimes, after an employee has been discharged, a supervisor will discover that the employee broke additional rules. But even if what you discover would be enough to have justified discharge on its own, chances are a court won’t let you use the information in your defense. After-acquired evidence isn’t admissible to show you would have fired the employee for reasons other than the one you used.

Hostility isn’t the same as discrimination. Proving it requires an affected employee to show both subjectively and objectively that she endured ridicule or worse—not just that her supervisor was unfair or even discriminated.
Supervisors sometimes enforce rules in a biased way or discipline members of a protected class more severely than others. But HR can stop this discrimination dead in its tracks with an internal informal audit. Regular monitoring (and fixing any problems you find) may be the best lawsuit-prevention tool around.
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