Employees can be a company’s most valuable assets, but sometimes, they can be a great liability. Failing to proactively manage employee issues can cost your company its reputation and its’ operating capital. The best way to proactively address potential employee issues is to talk with an experienced labor and employment lawyer.
What is Employment Discrimination?
According to the laws enforced by the United States Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to discriminate against any applicant or employee because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40+), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Employer Best Practices
The best way to safeguard your business from discrimination claims is to have written procedures in place regarding:
- Job Advertising and Recruiting
- Applications and Hiring
- Pay and Benefits
- Disciplinary Action, Employee Termination
- Disability & Religious Practices accommodation
- Harassment / Constructive Discharge
- Dress Code
Each one of these areas has the possibility for an allegation of discriminatory practices. It is recommended that every workplace take a look at their current protocols and practices to ensure that the emphasis of the protocol is on the applicant’s qualifications or performance and not extraneous factors. Having a system of checks and balances can add to the effectiveness of these protocols. For instance, if your business does not have a dedicated HR department you may consider training each department head on the protocols in place for your operation or having a committee that handles the above functions based on the established practices set forth.
Beyond Employee Handbooks
While having written policies and procedures in effect is one part of the equation, it is not enough. Establishing a culture of inclusion in the workplace can go a long way in avoiding discrimination claims. Additionally, providing open communication channels regarding employee issues and monitoring actual practices will help alert you to any potential issues with employment discrimination.
Part of developing a culture of inclusion involves initial and ongoing training and mentoring of employees, including supervisors and managers. This helps to ensure everyone is on the same page and provided with the best opportunities to succeed on the job, regardless of who they are.
Ensuring that you have a strong anti-harassment policy is another important factor in the culture of inclusion. Make sure that all employees are aware of the zero-tolerance policy. Allow for confidential reporting, neutral investigation, and consistent corrective action for all harassment issues.
If you have questions about avoiding employee discrimination claims, contact the labor and employment attorneys at Willcox, Buyck & Williams in Florence at (843)536-8050 or Myrtle Beach at (843)461-3020.