Some time ago, we gave you the first five of our top ten tips to lower your risk of being sued for employment discrimination. Summarizing them, they were:
– know the rudiments of anti-discrimination law;
– maintain a zero-tolerance anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy;
– hire a knowledgeable and experienced HR person, or general counsel, if you can afford it;
– have someone you can turn to who can identify an employment discrimination issue before it develops or gets worse, be it an attorney, accountant, or outside vendor;
– draft and maintain an up-to-date employment manual or handbook.
Here are the second five of our list of top ten tips:
6. Even if it not required by your state’s law, maintain a periodic training program for all managers and employees in anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies. Keep the training current and specific to each state in which your company does business.
7. Keep good records, especially about employee performance and evaluations, problems and complaints, and any other matters that may be necessary down the road to support disciplinary measures, termination or reductions in force. Don’t be caught short when, for example, a troublesome employee with a long history of insubordination, abusive behavior, or poor attendance, sues you after an adverse employment action and you have no documents to support your action. Even worse is to create records, or back-date them, when none exist, when you discover that you have nothing to prove that the employee was a problem for a long period of time, the reason that you have given for firing him/her.
8. Let all employees know where to go to register a complaint, so as to give an aggrieved employee recourse if he/she experiences discrimination or feels aggrieved. Treat all employee complaints seriously and confidentially, and investigate all claims promptly and even-handedly.
9. Know who you hire. Consistent with the anti-discrimination laws, and laws relating to, by way of example, credit and criminal record privacy, and health record confidentiality, do the legal and proper due diligence before you hire someone, lest you find yourself with an employee who has a long history of suing employers for alleged discrimination or harassing co-workers.
10. Above all, obey the “Golden Rule” as it applies to the workplace: be as honest, transparent and forthright with employees as is consistent with business considerations, keep employees in “the loop,” and maintain a fair and consistent workplace. Employees who feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully are less likely to complain or sue.