In this age of political correctness, almost every business owner I speak with is scared of the potential for a discrimination lawsuit. Not because they set out to discriminate against an individual or an employee, but because people are human, with biases and feelings.
What is discrimination? Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals, based on age, gender, religious beliefs, race, etc. And, according to legaldictionary.net, Discrimination in the Workplace is “the discrimination in favor of or against an employee based on a group, category, or class to which the individual belongs, rather than on individual merit.”
Discrimination also can happen prior to hire, during the interview process, or during the termination process, leaving a business owner open to liability and potential lawsuits at many different times.
How do you as a business owner avoid having a discrimination lawsuit filed? There’s no way to guarantee that it won’t happen; however, there are tools, safeguards, and even partners you can put in place to protect yourself and drastically reduce liability, such as:
- Policies: Putting a Non-Discrimination Policy in place. While having a policy in place does not prohibit discrimination from happening, it is one of the first things new hires see in your employee handbook, informing them that equality within the workplace is important to you.
- Training: This is the next step in helping limit your liability. Take the time to train your employees on what discrimination is, how and why it will not be tolerated in the workplace. Be sure to address the ramifications if an employee is found discriminating against a potential or current employee. You also should be training your hiring managers on appropriate interview conduct and questions to ask. This will help protect you from potential discrimination during the hiring process.
- Documentation: This is the most important aspect of reducing your liability. If you have been sued by an employee for discrimination, it is much harder to defend yourself if you do not have any documentation. You may have excellent policies and training in effect, but if you can’t prove these things, it makes for a difficult defense. For example, if you train your managers that they cannot hold back their most qualified employee from a promotion because of that employee’s age, but there is no documentation of that non-discrimination training, it’s as though it didn’t really happen.
While you can monitor these issues internally, an HR Managed Services provider like Staff One HR supports clients in the areas of HR Compliance as well as providing Employment Practice Liability Insurance (EPLI) coverage for our clients. EPLI is your last line of defense, and protects you if an employee sues for discrimination. Staff One HR also provides dedicated, certified HR Managers for our clients, helping them be proactive in the areas of compliance.
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