Workplace discrimination is far more common than many people realize. This means that a business that thinks that it’s doing everything it can to prevent discriminatory practices can end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit that can be costly to its bottom line and damaging to its reputation and goodwill. So, even if you think that workplace discrimination isn’t going to be a problem with your business, you need to be proactive in protecting your interests and defending yourself against allegations. But how, exactly, do you do that?
Preemptively fighting against workplace discrimination
The best way to avoid being affected by workplace discrimination claims is to ensure that you have the right policies and practices in place to prevent it in the first place. This means creating an employee handbook that forbids discrimination while at the same time defining it. Your policies can also dictate non-discriminatory practices and identify reporting procedures and disciplinary action against those who are found to have engaged in discriminatory behavior. You’ll want to be as clear and as detailed as possible in this regard.
Another way to avoid workplace discrimination claims is to have ample employee training. Although most people have a general sense of what constitutes discriminatory behavior, providing ongoing education can help ensure that there’s no excuse for such behavior. This training can also protect you by ensuring that reporting procedures are clear.
Defending against claims of discrimination
But, as we mentioned above, regardless of how careful you are on the front end, you can still find yourself facing claims of discrimination. These allegations might include blatant discrimination, such as refusing to hire people of a protected class, or more subtle forms of discrimination such as the implementation of policies that have a disparate impact on those of a certain protected class.
So how do you go about defending yourself against these allegations? You might have several options available to you. Here are some of them:
- The employment action was justified: In these workplace discrimination cases, the plaintiff has suffered some sort of harm, which is usually a negative employment action like termination, demotion, or being passed over for hiring or promotion. But if you can show that the negative employment action was justified, then you can defeat a discrimination claim. For example, if an employee’s performance appraisals show that he or she consistently failed to meet expectations or was constantly late to work, then you’ll be in a better position to challenge one of these claims.
- Business and/or position necessity: In cases where a disparate impact is argued, employees try to show that you failed to consider and implement policies that were non-discriminatory in nature, and those policies negatively impacted individuals of a protected class. But if the policy in question furthered a legitimate business interest and was necessary for the job at hand, then your policy is probably legally valid. For example, requiring the ability to lift heavy objects might disproportionately affect women, but it might be necessary if a policy requiring that ability applies to a warehouse job where lifting heavy objects is necessary.
- The employee didn’t follow proper reporting procedures: In order to succeed on his or her claim, an employee will have to show that they were subjected to workplace discrimination and suffered harm, but if they never reported the discriminatory behavior to you to allow you to take corrective action, then you increase you chances of defeating a legal claim based on that discrimination.
Protect your business as aggressively as possible
There can be a lot at stake in a workplace discrimination case. That’s why you need to know the law, how it applies to your case, and how to craft the persuasive legal arguments that you need to support your position. If you’d like to learn more about how to do that given the circumstances at hand, then think about discussing your circumstances with an experienced employment law attorney.