If you have an ethics, harassment or discrimination hotline, be sure to track all complaints that come in, your response and any follow up. This information will come in handy later if someone who used the hotline sues, claiming you ignored her complaints or otherwise discriminated against her.
Recent case: Sandra worked for many years as a truck driver for a union employer. When a romantic relationship with a co-worker ended, Sandra claimed the man had sexually harassed her. She made repeated calls to the employer’s ethics hotline, complaining about a variety of problems, including harassment and allegations that some drivers drove drunk. The co-worker was suspended for the sexual harassment.
Three years later, Sandra called the hotline to report that a supervisor had said, “One day, I’m going to kiss you.” She requested a transfer and the company agreed.
Later that year, Sandra was among several drivers laid off. In the past, drivers had been recalled when business picked up, but Sandra wasn’t rehired. She sued, alleging this was retaliation for her harassment complaints.
The employer explained that it had taken all her harassment complaints seriously and always fixed the problem while encouraging her to use the hotline whenever she perceived a problem. It then argued that there was no connection between those calls and the failure to rehire. Sandra’s lawsuit was dismissed because she couldn’t show that anyone involved in her calls was also a decision-maker in the rehiring process. She had nothing but speculation as evidence. (Connelly v. Lane Construction, No. 2:13-cv-1402, WD PA, 2014)
Final note: Employers build credibility by being proactive. A hotline shows you are serious about preventing and remedying discrimination and harassment. Judges want to believe employers follow the law; good records showing you invite complaints and then respond to those complaints help prove it.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- National origin discrimination: Employer guidelines
- Racial slur or everyday saying? If it's offensive, make sure it stops
- Disability isn't a free pass to insubordination; enforce behavior rules with all employees
- Even if not job-related, consider granting easy disability accommodations