If you are an employer faced with claims from an employee, perhaps the best advice that can be given is that you should promptly consult with legal counsel that has specialized knowledge in the employment area. Just as you have the expertise to run your business, a lawyer with specialized knowledge in the employment area should have the skills to help you navigate the sometimes complex area of employee claims.
There are, however, a number of suggestions that generally apply that could lessen the likelihood of having a discrimination claim made against you or make it easier to defend against such a claim. First, if such a claim has been made, care should be taken to determine whether the alleged harasser or discriminator and the alleged victim should be separated or placed on leave. Appropriate managers should be informed and it should be stressed that retaliation will not be tolerated. If there are upcoming performance reviews or planned business changes, consideration should be given to whether such matters will give an appearance of retaliation.
Of particular importance is when an employee makes a discrimination claim and the employer needs to go over a negative employment review or is aware of an impending wave of layoffs. When an employee has made a discrimination charge, being laid off can be a huge opportunity for that person to claim retaliation. Employers should make sure their practices steer clear of being construed as retaliation.
One of the more important steps an employer can take to lessen the likelihood of being successfully sued for discrimination is to keep good records. Recordkeeping provides concrete evidence of job performance factors that occurred before the employee claimed discrimination. Disciplinary actions and poor performance should be well documented. If they are not, you may be left with a swearing match over the quality of an employee’s performance. Another step that can lessen the likelihood of discrimination claims is to require that all promotions/demotions be approved by a second-line supervisor.
Another means to lessen the likelihood of a discrimination claim is through training. Employers and workers can benefit from training to educate them about the pitfalls of discrimination and how it should be thoroughly avoided in the workplace. From seminars to online modules, employers can encourage such education. Training can help prevent discrimination, negative and false stereotypes, and subconscious bias that can sometimes take over a business’ hiring and promotion practices, as well as performance evaluations and other routine tasks in the workplace.
Employers should contact a skilled discrimination attorney in order to lessen the risk of discrimination and retaliation claims. A knowledgeable attorney can discuss the important steps to take to ensure your business is complying with the law and help educate managers to make wise decisions. A good attorney can be both proactive to lessen the likelihood of a suit and reactive to lessen the impact of a suit.