State and federal laws guarantee workers’ right to a workplace free from harassment or discrimination. Most employees have better things to do than take the company they work for to court. Yet, many do each year. It’s typically not that they want to but that they feel they have no other choice.
As an employer, what can you do to minimize the problems you have from discrimination and harassment lawsuits?
Prioritize a healthy workplace environment
Think about the last time you had a problem with someone or something. Was litigation your first thought? Or was it to tell someone and have them resolve the issue. When an employee takes their employer to court over harassment or discrimination, it is likely to be a last resort. Here are some things you can do to reduce the chance it happens:
- Create policies: Having clear anti-discrimination policies is essential. This makes your public stance known and can influence your company culture.
- Ensure people know your policies: There is little point in having a policy if your staff does not know about it. While it might be in your employee handbook, most people do not read these. Distribute the policy in multiple places around your workplace.
- Ensure people understand your policies: Reading a policy is one thing. Understanding how it applies to you is another. Bring in outside staff who specialize in this area if you cannot do the training in house.
- Ensure people know how to report problems: However clear your policies there is always a chance that discrimination occurs. Or that people feel they have suffered it. Give them multiple ways to report it and help them feel safe doing so. The easier it is for them, the more likely they give you a chance to take action rather than go straight to the employment authorities.
Training, paperwork and posters will be in vain if employees do not believe that you care about having a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. Set the right tone in all you do. Make sure your managers follow suit. If you want to create create a safe and happy work environment, it starts at the top.
Working with an attorney on your employee handbook and policies is often wise. It can help you stay compliant with the law and avoid potential future problems.