Both federal employment laws and Florida State laws make it clear that companies should never consider protected characteristics when making decisions about who to hire or fire. All workers should receive fair consideration for employment and advancement opportunities based on their capability and history, not their race, sex, religion or other such protected characteristics.
Workers who believe that employers considered inappropriate personal details when making decisions could pursue a discrimination claim against a company. Discrimination complaints can cost organizations tens of thousands of dollars in court costs, and they can also do major damage to an affected company’s reputation.
Recruiting can become more difficult after a lawsuit. The best and brightest talent may notice news articles or social medial stories about discrimination lawsuits and may decline to pursue opportunities with the organization out of fear of facing some kind of mistreatment. Avoiding discrimination claims requires fostering a work environment that does not permit any kind of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. How can organizations limit the likelihood of discrimination claims by workers?
1. Have clear zero-tolerance policies
Every organization should commit itself to avoiding discrimination and preventing harassment on the job. Having policies in worker handbooks and employee contracts, as well as in the corporate documents for the organization, can be a good starting point.
The company will also need to show how it employs those policies to protect its staff. Recognizing that some workers may unintentionally discriminate is also important. employing certain safeguards, such as having outside management review any large-scale decisions for signs of discriminatory trends, can go a long way toward protecting the company against future claims.
2. Properly train all workers
Workers who don’t understand what constitutes harassment or discrimination are more likely to engage in inappropriate workplace behavior. Comprehensive training is important, especially for team leads, management and human resource professionals.
Florida has recently adjusted some of its rules regarding the kinds of diversity training that companies offer. It is more important than ever for organizations to ensure that their training materials are up-to-date and legally compliant and that they impress upon workers the importance of treating one another with respect. Proper training should also include instructions on how workers can report misconduct or concerns of discrimination to management for review.
When organizations take proper steps to address discrimination, they reduce the likelihood of facing expensive employment law claims later.