The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that it received nearly 100,000 workplace discrimination claims during its 2012 fiscal year. These claims do not include those filed through state agencies. Retaliation, race and sex discrimination which includes allegations of sexual harassment and pregnancy were, respectively, the most frequently filed charges. The Commission further reported that it obtained $365 million for those who brought forth these claims.
To prevent discrimination from occurring in your company, you should do the following: Continue reading
Best Buy founder Richard Schulze is stepping down as the company’s Chairman of the Board after it was revealed he failed to inform the Board when he learned that CEO Brian Dunn was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee. Dunn resigned last month.
Once again, careers are destroyed and company reputation’s harmed because key executives do dumb things—one having a relationship with a subordinate and the other for failing to report it after receiving a written statement about it, in clear violation of their company’s policy.
Best Buy acted appropriately in accepting both “resignations.” Their internal audit showed Dunn’s behavior was inappropriate and resulted in a negatively impacted work environment. Turns out this apparently consensual relationship was not a secret at Best Buy as the consenting partner spoke openly about her friendship.
As for Schulze, his 46 year career at Best Buy ends because his failure to report “exposed the employees to potential retaliation and the company to potential liability” according to the company.
While there has been no claim of sexual harassment, the potential exposure is there. All executives and managers can learn from this:
- Have clear policies and procedures outlining appropriate workplace behavior;
- Have in place policies on fraternization and sexual harassment and follow them strictly;
- Conduct annual training;
- When violations occur, take the appropriate actions, regardless of who may commit them—and never delay in taking action.
Finally, managers and executives must understand, having a relationship with a subordinate, whether consensual or not, is like playing with fire—eventually someone is going to get burned.
If you and your organization need help in addressing such problems or want to take proactive steps to prevent this from happening in your company, give me a call.
Dacri & Associates, LLC
You can win claims of discrimination. Ken Moulison, President of Moulison North in Biddeford, Maine proved that. When one of his employees complained to him that he was being subjected to racial comments on the job site, Ken immediately addressed the problem. That kind of behavior was not tolerated at Moulison—and Ken had a track record to prove it.
Well before this incident, Ken engaged Dacri & Associates to put in place a comprehensive discrimination and harassment prevention program that included training, polices, a complaint procedure and employee education. Armed with this, Ken knew what to do when faced with an incident. Yet, even though Ken quickly corrected the problem, a fact admitted by the employee, a discrimination suit was still filed.
Unwilling to settle this case to make it go away, Ken won the initial suit and then won the subsequent appeal. Having a strong anti-discrimination program in place—a fact cited by the judge, Ken wanted to send a clear message that his company does not tolerate discrimination in the workplace, nor would he back down to avoid an unwarranted legal fight—a decision Ken believes saved his company $100,000 in settlement and legal fees.
So how can you protect your workforce and company against discrimination, similar to what Moulison did? There are seven key strategies necessary to eliminate claims of discrimination:
- Invest heavily in management training. Train all your managers annually in employment law basics, communication skills, and how to treat employees with respect.
- Review all your employment practices. Focus on hiring, promotion, discipline, layoffs/termination, performance appraisals and documentation. Look for and eliminate systemic practices that could result in discriminatory practices.
- Have a broad anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. The courts and the EEOC interpret having no policy negatively. Include a complaint procedure, protections again retaliatory actions, language discouraging inappropriate behavior, and communication alerting employees that all employees should file claims promptly, along with clear procedures on how to file a claim.
- Investigate all claims. Whenever an employee makes a complaint, investigate it quickly. Never dismiss a claim without a thorough, impartial review. Keep the alleged victim informed of your actions. And if harassment or discrimination does occur, dish out the appropriate discipline, while protecting the victim and any witnesses from potential retaliation.
- Response mechanism. Train all managers on how to spot discriminatory practices and how to respond to employees who make claims. Eliminating discrimination before it occurs is the key. Properly responding to complaints will mitigate damage and will send a message that you care.
- Create a respectful culture. Organizations that have a culture that is based on respecting all employees rarely have issues or claims of harassment and discrimination. Employees who respect each other don’t harass or discriminate. Be clear that harassment and discrimination will never be tolerated, but if it happens, it will be swiftly and forcefully addressed.
- Follow your state law guidelines. Multi-state employers must know all state laws to ensure compliance.
Claims of discrimination or harassment can happen. But when companies have in place strong proactive programs and when managers know how to handle these situations, claims can be won. And managers can have the peace of mind that they did the right thing.
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the launch of its first application for smartphones (http://www.dol.gov/whd) , a timesheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users conveniently can track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own records. This information could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records.
Recommendation: The DOL’s new app makes it especially important for employers to ensure the consistency and the accuracy of their time-reporting mechanisms. In particular, employers should make sure that their employees understand that the company’s timekeeping mechanisms are the basis for their pay and the company’s compliance with applicable laws, and those records must be filled out completely and accurately regardless of whether the employees are using any other means for tracking their time. In addition, employers should not in any way discourage their employees from using the application lest they be charged with retaliation against their employees’ exercise of rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).