Employers were hit hard with employment discrimination suits in 2010. Both the number of complaints and the fines administered for violating anti-discrimination laws increased significantly last year. I still find it hard to believe that so many companies are found guilty of singling out employees for their race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, etc. It’s an unfortunate reality. For business leaders, the way employment discrimination allegations are handled can either help or hinder your reputation. Here are some recent findings about the current state of employment discrimination and what you can do to handle complaints properly:
Failure to pay men and women equal pay for equal work, denying someone a promotion based on the factors I mentioned above; are just some of the types of discrimination many people still face in the workplace. A report that was released recently indicates that employers are paying a significantly higher price for discrimination settlements than ever before. The Workforce.com article “Employment Discrimination Settlements Surge,” states:
“The monetary value of settlements of the top 10 private plaintiff employment discrimination class-action lawsuits paid or entered into in 2010 totaled $346.4 million, which is more than four times the amount in 2009, according to an analysis released January 5th.”
The article also mentions that lawsuits involving employment discrimination were in the headlines more often than any other type of workplace issue last year.
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What does this mean for employers?
1. Follow the law – and workplace policies.
A lot of employers fail to realize that discrimination could occur in their workplace. Employers and managers need to brush up on their responsibilities to prevent workplace discrimination from occurring. Anti-discrimination laws exist to protect employees and should also be built into workplace policies.
2. Keep employee files up to date.
When firing or failing to promote an employee, employers better have the evidence to support why the selected candidate was chosen – especially if the unsuccessful candidate feels discriminated against and files a lawsuit. Keep employee files up to date by documenting employee misconduct, performance reviews and any other activities the employee is involved in. When an employee receives a sub par performance review, make sure that the evidence supporting your decisions is documented in the review.
3. You need to respond to complaints properly.
A quick response to any type of employee complaint is required. Each complaint must be taken seriously to avoid any additional allegations or negligence. Put a system in place that allows employees to make complaints internally. Case management software is a great system for ensuring that each incoming complaint is routed to the appropriate investigator. An email alert is built into the system and triggers a message to inform the appropriate individuals that a new case has been entered and that they have been assigned the case for investigation.
4. Implement systems and procedures that help you correct these issues.
Investigate each allegation of employment discrimination. Case management software can be easily integrated with a company’s HR programs, making it easier to access information that could provide great insight into the investigation. Make sure the policy is referred to and procedures are followed to avoid any additional allegations and claims of an unfair investigation. Take corrective action by identifying common allegations and their location in order to provide training and review company policies pertaining to employment discrimination.