Statistics by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reveal employment discrimination lawsuits are on the rise. In 2010 alone, there were nearly 100,000 employment discrimination claims filed with the EEOC. As an employer, there are several preventive measures you can take to avoid becoming a defendant in an employment discrimination lawsuit.
In order to maintain a work environment that is free from discrimination and harassment, managers must be able to recognize and properly address all forms of employment discrimination. They must be trained so that the company’s anti-discrimination policy is properly implemented.
The anti-discrimination policy should make it clear that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in the workplace. This includes discrimination based on race, national origin, sex or religion. Other forms of unacceptable behavior include harassment, bullying and retaliation.
Facilitation of employee reporting is another important aspect of the anti-discrimination policy. By including a choice of several methods for reporting incidents, employees can decide which method best suits their specific situation. The policy should also comply with due process and accordingly contain a procedure for appeals.
Federal law requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. This may include installing ramps for those in wheelchairs or providing an interpreter for the hearing impaired. The employer may work together with the employee to determine a suitable accommodation.
Employee complaints should be addressed in a prompt and professional manner. Sometimes, what seems like a small issue in the moment, can actually be a burgeoning employee discrimination lawsuit. The potential inconvenience of providing certain accommodations is certainly overshadowed by the inconvenience of defending a lawsuit.
Employers involved in employment discrimination lawsuits often find themselves lacking the evidence they need to assert a successful defense. It is important to ensure you have the proof you need should an employment discrimination claim be filed in the future.
Document all your email and verbal conversations with employees. Keep records of explanations for decisions regarding employee disciplinary action and firing. Proof that you implemented a fair feedback system and attempted to improve an employee’s performance prior to termination can be useful evidence that they were not fired for a discriminatory reason. Also, document the reasons for not hiring employees. If an applicant who was not hired files suit, it will be helpful to have proof that they were passed over based on a non-discriminatory reason.
Policy training should also be documented. There are many online options for employee training that require signatures indicating employees have been informed of and understand employer policies. This documentation is valuable evidence that may be presented to a jury should an employment discrimination lawsuit arise.