Everything You Need To Know About Foreclosure Law

« Back to Home

5 Tips for Protecting Your Business from Discrimination Lawsuits

Posted on

As a business owner or upper-level manager, you may be absolutely certain you don't discriminate, so why should you worry about being sued? Unfortunately, it isn't always about how you treat your employees; it's also how you handle complaints regarding co-workers as well as mid-level management, among other things. Since no business is 100% immune to the possibility of a lawsuit, here are five ways you can protect yourself and your company from the threat of a being sued for discrimination.

1. Train your management team.

Many lawsuits are based upon employee perception that mid-level management either treats minorities differently or they neglect to protect minorities from the harassment of co-workers. In these situations, training is key. Educate your management team on what could be construed as discrimination. This is defined as hiring, firing, or giving any sort of special treatment (whether positive or negative) to an employee or potential employee based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age (over 40 years of age), sex, or national origin. Some localities have added to the list to include marital status, sexual orientation, educational status, handicaps, and even family responsibilities. Accept the possibility that you could have management on board who will and do discriminate, and be sure to let them know that it will not be tolerated.

2. Listen to your employees and put yourself in their shoes.

Maybe you've heard some "buzz" that white men are more favored than black men in your organization, or that younger females tend to get promoted more so than those above the age of 40. Listen to these rumors. Take them to heart. And try to empathize with how your workers feel. From there, address these concerns and look at the facts. Are your higher ranked employees mostly females under the age of 40? And if so, can you prove that their position is based upon education, experience, and the like? If not, it may be time to make some changes or keep these considerations in mind when promoting people. 

3. Have an "Open Door" policy.

If your employees are aware that they can bring any complaints to you or other upper-level management, you're at least halfway there in the way of protecting yourself. All of your staff, managers included, need to know that they can go to the appropriate person with complaints without the fear of retaliation. This alone can foster a positive work environment and increase worker satisfaction across the board.

4. Listen to complaints.

Every workplace has employees who complain seemingly non-stop. You might even have managers who tend to be unapproachable, and they seem to draw more negativity than others. It just goes with the territory. But If you have an employee that comes to you and complains about being discriminated against, don't just brush it under the rug and chalk it up to childish whining.

Listen, sympathize, and address their concerns. Document what happened, what was said, and let them know you will speak with the involved personnel. Ignoring the complaint, or even treating the employee as though they are imagining things, can often escalate the situation and put your company at risk. While the discrimination claim could be false, there could be problems brewing beneath the surface. Maybe the manager simply needs additional training, or perhaps they need to be reminded of sensitivity. Conduct your own investigation and assure the employee that you will be handling the situation. 

5. Keep a paper trail.

It's inevitable that at some point you'll have to let an employee go for poor performance. If that employee decides to sue for discrimination, one huge way to protect yourself is by maintaining written documentation that warnings were cited. For example, if your employees are required to clock in, and you have a team member that showed up late every Monday for a month, you should have a record of that if you save time sheets.

However, this alone is not enough. You need to have a documented history of warning that employee that if they continue to show up late, there will be consequences, such as suspension or termination. That employee needs to be very clear that they are being terminated due to unreliability, and a paper trail of evidence supporting that decision can protect you. 

To get a better idea of how to better protect yourself, contact a discrimination attorney.