Avoiding Harassment And Discrimination Lawsuits
The best way to defend a harassment or discrimination lawsuit at the workplace, is to avoid lawsuits in the first place. While there is no completely foolproof way to do that, there are things you can do at your workplace to minimize the chase of lawsuits–and to strengthen your defenses, should a lawsuit be filed against you.
Your employees aren’t as up on current discrimination laws as you are. They don’t sit with you when you are speaking with your employment discrimination attorney, or get the training that you do.
You should have programs–even just talks–that educate workers as to what kind of language and behavior is acceptable at work, and which is not. This includes discussing the various protected classes that don’t get as much media publicity, including disability, pregnancy, or sexual orientation.
A policy that says “don’t harass anyone” is not very effective. Be specific on what kind of words or behavior are prohibited.
Don’t forget things that don’t come out of people’s mouths can be harassment also. For example, sharing an email attachment that is insulting to women, or allowing someone to have a sign on their desk that makes fun of someone, can be seen as harassment.
If an employee has a sickness, illness or disability and you can make an accommodation for them, try to do so. This includes accommodations for employees who may have genuinely held religious beliefs.
If you think that making an accommodation will jeopardize safety, or there is some overriding reason why you cannot accommodate, speak with an employment discrimination attorney before just saying “no.”
Make Reporting Easy and Clear
You should have clearly defined procedures for how someone who feels they are being discriminated against, makes a complaint. The policy should be made known to all employees. In many cases, people who would just complain end up filing lawsuits, because their employer has not provided them a way to fix the problem internally.
You should make reporting as easy as possible, and make it comfortable for people. For example, a woman complaining about sexual harassment may prefer to complain to a female supervisor.
The person who handles harassment complaints should preferably be in the office, and easily accessible, not in some remote location.
How You’ll Investigate
Your company should have established procedures for investigating complaints of discrimination or harassment. Supervisory employees should know to follow the procedures. Your policy should balance the need for investigating complaints, while also avoiding making false accusations against employees suspected of harassment.
Don’t Ever Retaliate
Retaliating against an employee who makes a complaint is one of the worst things you can do as an employer.
Retaliation can be very subtle–it doesn’t have to involve firing someone. Are you or someone else treating a complaining employee differently? Complaining about things he or he does that you don’t complain about with other employees? Is the complaining employee being deprived of office privileges, breaks, or other non-monetary “perks?” These can all be seen as retaliatory actions.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help you protect your business, in court and out of court.