How to Survive the Perfect Anti-Discrimination Storm at Work

How to Survive the Perfect Anti-Discrimination Storm at Work
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This Anti-discrimination article that was published in 2009 still applies to employers and employees today who desired a respectful workplace.

“Historic trends and events are converging into a perfect storm that could place anti-discrimination at the center of corporate policy with an intensity unseen since passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964”, according to Dr. James Fadigan, one of the authors of the Title VII anti-discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a leading authority on equal employment opportunity.

What’s Causing the Perfect Storm?

Consider these ten facts:

  1. The Economy is Struggling
    Last fall, we experienced a near-collapse of the world’s economic system, and the recovery is just starting.
  2. Unemployment is at a Record High
    Millions of people have lost their jobs since the start of the year. Major employers laid off workers, closed plants, and filed for bankruptcy.
  3. Workplace Discrimination Claims Have Soared
    Discrimination claims have climbed to unprecedented levels. According to the EEOC, 82,792 charges were filed in 2007 and 95,402 in 2008, a 15% increase in just one year. Claims of age discrimination went up 29%.
  4. Individual Net Worth Has Suffered
    Employees have seen their 401(k) and other retirement account balances plummet. As a result, a number of older workers will have to delay retirement, thus reducing the normal employee turnover rate, which could result in even more layoffs than otherwise would be needed. It could also lead to more age discrimination claims.
  5. FMLA
    Families of active duty military have new FMLA rights, as of January, 2009. Employees with a son, daughter, parent, or spouse called to active duty can take time from work to handle “qualifying exigencies” related to the call to duty, and can also take up to 6 months off to care for the service member, if he or she is injured in the line of active duty.
  6. Family Leave Insurance
    As of July 1, 2009, New Jersey has joined California in providing employees with paid Family Leave Insurance benefits. Washington State was supposed to begin FLI coverage in October, 2009, but deferred the start date because of the state’s financial woes. More than a dozen other states are considering FLI or paid sick leave laws.
  7. It is Easier to Sue
    President Obama has already signed legislation making it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination, and his administration has beefed up enforcement of existing labor and employment laws, hiring hundreds of new compliance officials.
  8. Anti-Retaliation Protection
    In January, 2009 the US Supreme Court extended federal antiretaliation protection to workers who participate in internal investigations.
  9. Codes of Conduct
    As of the end of 2008, all federal contractors and subcontractors must have adopted codes of conduct and must train their employees on them.
  10. New Laws
    Congress is considering laws to: expand federal discrimination protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees; mandate sick pay; overhaul union organizing; index the minimum wage to the inflation rate; extend the WARN notice period to 90 days; toughen OSHA protections; remove damage caps from federal discrimination cases; and more.

What This Means to You

If you think your managers aren’t clear about the legal risks they can create for your company every time they evaluate, re-assign, and respond to employee issues, or provide performance feedback you are probably right. So how can your organization avoid a shipwreck in this perfect storm? Make sure the captain and crew (that is, your leaders, managers, and supervisors) are well-trained to:

  • Know the waters
  • Spot employment law hazards
  • Chart business reasons for all decisions
  • Seek advice from navigation experts (upper management, HR, and Legal)

The Bottom Line
Proven 1×1 Sensitivity Training, Respectful Workplace, and Managing Within the Law workshops can teach your leaders and managers will to spot legal hazards and respond to them correctly in order to help to build a respectful workplace and prevent costly employee lawsuits. Don’t wait until your company is sinking under a messy employee claim to get your managers the skills and knowledge that they need.

To learn more about anti-discrimination and effective compliance training, download this Corporate Compliance Legal To Do List


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