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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A federal jury in Manhattan has awarded a Swedish woman $18 million in her harassment lawsuit against her former Wall Street boss.
The EEOC has come out with a declaration that federal legislation explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is unnecessary because it is already prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This is a new and important development in the ongoing efforts of activists to get discrimination protection for all workers, regardless of sexual orientation, preference or other characteristics based on sexuality.
Employers that make public commitments to creating a more diverse workplace don’t risk losing a lawsuit solely based on that stated objective. An employee alleging discrimination because he isn’t part of the targeted demographic for diversity still has to show that he was fired or not promoted for a discriminatory reason. He can’t simply argue that the diversity commitment proves his case.
Are you planning to change the way you schedule work or provide overtime opportunities? If the proposed changes would affect your older employees, make sure you document solid business reasons to justify the new system, just in case it is challenged in court.
If your workplace appears to be dominated by men—especially at the highest levels of the company—then that could hurt your efforts to defend against a sex discrimination lawsuit. Fortunately, all other factors being equal, it won’t be a game-changer.

Most employers outsource employee assistance plans, which offer confidential counseling to help workers deal with personal problems, work-related stress and other concerns. But some organizations handle EAP services in-house. That can cause a potential conflict of interest if an EAP counselor’s advice creates liability for the employer or calls into question its actions.

Employers can’t rely on the lack of a formal reasonable accommodations request as the basis for not providing one if it is obvious the employee is disabled and has informally indicated he needs help. There are no magic words required, no need to invoke the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act or state disability statutes.

Philadelphia-based Comcast has settled charges it manipulated women into taking lower paying jobs at a call center in Washington.
Q. One of our employees requested that we accommodate his health condition by allowing him to occasionally work from home. We are concerned that this arrangement will cause his colleagues to become disgruntled. May we deny the request for this reason? If not, what information may we share with the employee’s colleagues so that they are more understanding of the situation?

You know the mantra: To win lawsuits, you must document, document, document! When it comes to employees who sue you for discrimination after they have been disciplined, documentation means making careful, contemporaneous notes about alleged rule-breaking or other wrongdoing. It means and saving records for every disciplinary action. You can’t just zealously document misdeeds by the employee you think will sue. You have to do it for everyone.

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