The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives thousands of complaints a year, discrimination suits being the most common of all employee-related lawsuits. A work culture that is diverse and accepting not only benefits employment, but is also good for business. Discrimination still happens however, whether it’s the actions of one employee or something as simple as outdated policies. Facing a lawsuit could bring significant costs to a business and damage to its reputation, not to mention harm caused to those discriminated against. Often, discrimination lawsuits are preventable, and proving that preventative policies were in place can help in the event of a lawsuit. Here are five tips to help you make sure your employees are being treated fairly and thus avoid a discrimination suit.
Set clear policies
Company policies should be written clearly, detailing what is and what is not acceptable, including examples specific to that industry. In some states, a written policy is law. Polices should explain how cases of discrimination should be reported, including multiple channels for reporting in case the employee’s supervisor is the one being discriminatory. Consider using a third-party hotline. Also detail how a complaint will be handled, including an explanation of disciplinary action for the guilty party, and make sure employees know they will not be retaliated against for filing a complaint. Be sure to have a zero tolerance policy. When discrimination occurs, action should be taken immediately, leaving little room for further discrimination or for the employee to feel as though their complaint was disregarded. Take a look at all policies, such as dress codes, to ensure policies are not gendered but instead focus on professional and appropriate attire for all employees.
In addition to company policy, employees should be aware, and in compliance of laws regarding discrimination. Employees should be able to spot discrimination, and know how to address it when necessary, especially managers. Training should be done with all employees, either with online modules or a seminar with a lawyer or a human-resources professional. Discrimination training can also include topics such as workplace harassment, anger or violence, which all can relate to each other and overlap in training workshops. When all issues are addressed and handled appropriately, it leads to a happy, healthy workplace where employees feel valued, safe, and supported.
Avoid gender bias
When reviewing employee performance, consider only actual performance. Factors such as gender identity or sexual orientation should not factor into reviews or compensation, and managers should be trained to avoid implicit bias. The same goes for firing an employee, which should be done in the presence of a human-resources professional. When hiring new employees, be aware of which questions might be inappropriate or even illegal.
Keep a record
Make sure everything is well-documented, such as meetings and performance reviews. Warnings should also be given in writing.
Claims should be taken seriously and acted on promptly, with a thorough investigation into the incident. Neither the accuser nor the accused should be fired without taking proper action first. Interview both parties separately, as well as any possible witnesses to the behavior in question. Ask neutral questions, rather than appearing to take sides.
This article was written by Janelle Sheetz for CBS Small Business Pulse