Laws protecting employees against discrimination have been in play since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
As the labor landscape has changed, so has the number of employees experiencing discrimination and the way in which they react to it. Currently, discrimination cases are rising as employees become more outspoken about their rights.
You may be doing all that you can to ensure equal opportunity for your workers. You may be certain you have not discriminated against any employees or employment candidates – and yet it may happen that you find yourself at the end of such an accusation.
So, what do you do?
Take It Seriously
Even if you fully believe you are not at fault, do not dismiss any claims being made. Let the employee know the claim is acknowledged and will be investigated to the best of the company’s ability.
Do Not Retaliate
Remember that you cannot legally fire an employee for filing a claim, whether it’s true or false.
It would also be wise to not react in any way that can be construed as negative, such as enacting a policy or rule that is harmful specifically to the employee who has made the claim.
It should also be made clear to the employee that the company will in no way retaliate against them, so as to ensure their participation in the investigation.
Gather all evidence you can around the accusation being made, and get it in writing and in an orderly manner. Should this claim go to court, you will want all the tangible proof you can to help your business.
Hand it Off to Human Resources
If you have a human resources department, let them do their job to handle the situation. Back off and do not try to influence the investigation into the claim in any way.
If you do not have an HR department, look into hiring a third party to handle the investigation so it’s clear the investigation was unbiased.
Follow Up With The Employee
Once the investigation has concluded, the company should notify the employee of its outcome and ensure them that steps are being taken to address the complaint going forward, no matter the outcome. Specifics of these steps do not need to be discussed.
The employee should also be given a direct avenue to come forward with any future complaints.
Ready For Remedial Action
The outcome of a claim may be in favor of the company, or it may not. Either way, the company should be prepared to take prompt remedial action to help allay or eliminate any discriminatory conduct and prevent it from happening in the future.
The type of action taken will depend on many circumstances, such as the severity of the misconduct, the employee’s prior record, and how the company has handled similar situations in the past.
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