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Business Law: How to Deal with Discrimination and Harassment

Anyone who reads the newspapers or watches the news knows how pervasive discrimination  and harassment issues are in the workplace. These are issues you may one day face in the workplace. As such, business entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with these types  of workplace issues. Complaints along these lines, if not handled correctly, can cost your business immeasurably. In addition to a lawsuit you could be faced with a morale problem, lowered productivity and retaliation. The best way to prevent a discrimination or harassment lawsuit is to try and prevent them in the first place. Here are some elements to keep in mind. Investigate. Don’t shrug off a complaint when you hear one and think this cannot be happening at your business. Take complaints seriously. You have responsibilities as an employer and if you are large enough to have an HR department, make it priority. If you do not have an HR department, investigate thoroughly. Interview. Take the problem seriously and listen to the complainant. Do not retaliate in any way towards the complainant. By The Book: Make sure you do everything according to correct procedures. If you are big enough to have an HR dept. make them handle it and keep yourself closely in the loop. Don’t bend the rules for any reason. If not, you should consult a business attorney who can offer guidance. It may be time to have your attorney draft an employee handbook. If you find yourself the subject of a lawsuit of these type, obtain legal counsel immediately as there may be other ramifications such as an investigation by U.S. or state government entities. In terms of proactive prevention, here are some tips: Even if you are a small company, you should have a employment guide with the rules of the workplace. There are many nuances and evolving principles in this area. For example, do you know the law’s attitude towards religion, tattoos and dress code in the workplace? Recently, the US Supreme Court ruled against retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in an employment discrimination case when it refused to hire a Muslin woman because she wore a headscarf. Justice Scalia elaborated on this point in his written opinion by saying,  “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” Review your company’s policy and keep tabs on Federal and state laws. If you do not have a HR person on staff, you should have an attorney on retainer so you can consult with them when issues arrive. Ongoing business counsel can often help you nip things in the bud. R. D. Adair, PLLC offers experienced business counsel and can assist you with your  discrimination and harassment issues. To learn more about these issues, or how we can assist you in a related matter, contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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