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The #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment at your place of business can lead to financially crippling lawsuits, poor employee morale and productivity, and resignation of key employees.
Other types of harassment and discrimination have similarly serious impacts. The best way to have a workplace free of harassment and litigation is to be proactive. Make sure your employee policies and employment practices address harassment and discrimination and establish practices for investigating and responding to claims and resolving disputes long before litigation can occur.
Actions to take include:
The key is to understand all of your legal responsibilities as an employer. For example, firing or otherwise disciplining an employee who is called for jury duty or who serves in the military or reserves is illegal. It is also illegal to retaliate against employees who claim harassment or discrimination or to deny long-term employees commissions or bonuses by terminating them before those benefits are vested.
If you have questions or concerns, always seek the advice of an employment lawyer. Especially seek input if you are in a position to seriously discipline or terminate an employee in a "protected class," like an employee over the age of forty, a member of a minority, or an employee with a disability. Seek outside legal advice even if you plan to take an action that impacts a large number of people and you will apply that action evenly and fairly to all; large-scale actions (like layoffs or mandatory early retirement) can still be a source of litigation if you apply those actions to a large group of diverse employees.
In spite of your best efforts, an employee may still file a discrimination, harassment, or employment law violation claim against you. If that occurs, take action: