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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.

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Q. A new employee refuses to comply with our dress code, which has slightly different requirements for men and women, because the individual is transgender. Though the new employee marked “female” on our employment application, the individual has since told us about identifying as a man. Can we require this employee to follow our dress code for women?
Sometimes, new bosses crack the whip harder than the previous supervisor did—and hand out harsher performance appraisals, too. But absent specific evidence to the contrary, new and more rigorous standards don’t usually signal that the new boss is motivated by discriminatory intent.
Q. I am an HR director for a traditional, conservative company and have run into a new issue. When onboarding employees, I always explain our preferred dress code: we prefer women to wear skirts and dresses with pantyhose to work because many of our senior partners are old-fashioned. A new female employee said she would prefer to wear pants. Can we require her to wear a skirt instead?
About two-thirds of women who say they have been sexually harassed say it happened at work.
Employers that set pay based on past salaries are just as guilty of sex discrimination as those past employers who set a discriminatory rate of pay in the first place.
When hiring or promoting from within, make sure you document why the chosen candidate is better qualified than others.
Sometimes, filing a lawsuit and airing dirty laundry in a public forum can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for an employee. That doesn’t give her the right to bring the case using a pseudonym, a federal court has ruled.
The 2nd Circuit joins the 7th Circuit in ruling that sexual orientation is protected from discrimination, a position contrary to that taken recently by the 11th Circuit.
When it comes to disciplining employees, details make a big difference. Be sure you include enough information in your investigation reports so you can later explain, for example, why one employee deserved harsher punishment than another who made a similar mistake.
A federal court has made it clear: If a workplace is found to be a racially hostile environment, individual decision-makers are at risk of being held personally liable. Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 sometimes allows for bigger verdicts and personal liability for supervisors, managers, owners and even HR professionals.
Employment lawyers say the first six months of the #MeToo movement hasn’t led to a tsunami of workplace harassment claims by employees—at least not yet. One big change, however, has been a sharp increase in the number of employers who are doing preventative training to head off such claims.
A federal jury hearing a discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Minnesota Duluth has awarded $3.7 million to Shannon Miller, the university’s former women’s hockey coach.
Employers have an obligation to investigate and come up with an effective way to stop harassment and prevent it from happening again. However, that doesn’t mean the alleged victim gets to choose the remedy.
Overall, 51% of adults say an increased focus on sexual harassment has made it harder for men to interact with women at work.
No matter how trivial you might consider discrimination or harassment charges leveled by your employees, never, ever ignore an EEOC complaint. It could wind up costing your organization dearly.
If you find you have to pay more to fill open positions than incumbent employees are currently making, be ready with a good explanation for why new hires command bigger paychecks than staff members who were hired years earlier.
Is your HR office short-handed? That could spell big trouble, especially if supervisors have to handle personnel matters without HR’s help. Short-staffed or not, make sure bosses know they must consult HR on key employment law issues.
Employers that can’t provide a good, business-related explanation for every termination are courting legal trouble. Unless an employer can justify its action, an employee who sues for discrimination will find it relatively easy to get the case in front of a jury.
The EEOC is putting employers on notice that it will vigorously enforce the rights of employees who serve in the National Guard or military reserves or who are veterans.
A federal court hearing an anti-gay discrimination case in Texas has avoided ruling on whether sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. It did so by concluding that the employee didn’t show she had actually experienced sex discrimination.
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