Employment Discrimination Blog

Sunday, September 4, 2016

How to Avoid Employment Discrimination or Harassment Lawsuits

How can our company management avoid discrimination or harassment lawsuits?

With the body of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in place, it is not only prudent, but essential, for companies to take proactive steps to protect themselves from lawsuits that will be costly, both in monetary terms and in terms of reputation. Here are some recommendations about how to shield your company against an onslaught of complaints and possible legal actions. It is important that you find a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who handles management-based employment issues to consult with should such issues arise.

Wherever Possible Have a Human Resources Manager

The most valuable step you can take to protect your company from accusations of discrimination or harassment is to hire a well-educated human resources manager. Having someone on board who has mastered the laws regarding harassment and discrimination will be an invaluable addition to your firm since this individual will know:

  • What questions are appropriate to ask during a hiring interview? (e.g. nothing related to age or sexual orientation!)
  • What are the best employment policies to avoid gender/racial/ethnic/religious/sex discrimination?
  • What information should be included in employee handbooks?
  • What has to be done to comply with all federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws?
  • How should your company train employees and managers in what constitutes harassment?

Have a Lawyer on Call Who Specializes in Discrimination Cases

If your company is small and you cannot afford to hire a fulltime HR person, it is crucial that you are affiliated with a trained professional, typically a lawyer who specializes in discrimination cases, whom you can turn to with questions or concerns about employment issues.

Make Sure to Know the Ropes

You should familiarize yourself with the fundamental aspects of anti-discrimination laws. At the very least, you should be aware of the following "protected categories":

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic Information
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion
  • Sex

You should also understand the laws concerning equal pay, harassment, sexual harassment, whistleblowing, and retaliation, and which actions are prohibited by Title VII (The Civil Rights Act), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Make Sure All Employees Are Informed of Company "Zero Tolerance" of Discrimination Policies

Your company should have an updated employee handbook containing all company policies and procedures. Such a handbook must be distributed to all employees and each should sign a receipt showing that he or she has received a copy. You should also arrange for regular training sessions to make certain that all company employees understand the particular types of speech and behavior that will not be tolerated in the workplace.


Zero Tolerance Starts at the Top

Make certain that everyone in the workplace is treated with respect. Be a good role model of fairness and decency. Also, make it clear to everyone what the procedure is for reporting complaints and what process will follow to investigate and remediate any problems. This may involve disciplinary measures, even termination, of employees who violate company policy and federal law. Keep careful records of all such complaints and your company's response to them.




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