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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.

With employment litigation rising steadily, the employee handbook has become an essential tool in the employer’s arsenal to defend against liability for employment decisions. A good handbook tells employees what the rules are and how they will be enforced ...

It used to be that managers picked up the phone when seeking HR’s input on how to handle an employee problem. These days, they send an email. That can spell big trouble. Email, unlike a phone conversation, leaves a perfect record of what transpired. And courts don’t hesitate to use email as evidence.

When CNN ran a report in 2010 alleging pervasive bias in the Federal Air Marshal’s Service (FAMS), authorities braced for the worst. The good news: The resulting government investigation didn’t uncover widespread discrimination. The bad news: Investigators found that many FAMS employees believe they have been discriminated against.
The Equal Pay Act says that men and women who perform jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility should be paid the same. But that doesn’t mean everyone with the same title or similar job responsibilities falls into the same pay category.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when disciplining employees: Consider it a given that if discipline leads to termination, the entire disciplinary decision-making process will be challenged in court. That’s why you must carefully document every disciplinary action, starting with warnings.

Here’s an important reminder for all supervisors: Innocent age-related comments can come back to haunt you. That’s especially true if the comments come from someone who has a direct say in hiring and firing decisions.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has handed a significant victory to the EEOC, allowing the agency to continue to supervise settled cases. The impact: Employers should expect continued EEOC charges even after the ink is dry on their settlements.

How you choose among candidates for promotion may spell the difference be­­tween losing and winning a lawsuit. Always document the decision-making process, especially when candidates are equally qualified. Later, you may have to explain the decision in court—and your reason had better be a good, business-related one.

Sexual harassment victims deserve to have their claims investigated, not ignored. Under no circumstances should you encourage a complaining employee to quit instead of having to endure continued harassment. That’s a sure indication to many juries that the worker was punished for reporting sexual harassment.

Warn decision-makers who decide to act on their own, ignoring HR’s guidance: Juries can hold them personally liable for legal missteps—and make them pay punitive damages.