A charge of discrimination asserted by an employee can be a difficult experience for the employee and the employer alike. While the ultimate burden of proof is generally on the accusing employee, a claim of discrimination can be troublesome and, if an employer is not experienced with dealing with such claims, often confusing. A complex set of ever changing employment laws and regulations compounds the confusion many employers have in determining the appropriate response and actions to the charge.
Whether founded or unfounded, charges inevitably result in some degree of tension in the workplace, internal investigations, possible state or federal agency investigations, and may ultimately end up in the court system. A charge of discrimination, though, can be an opportunity for progress if dealt with carefully. It can, among other things, show the employees of a company that their complaints will be heard and addressed properly.
If your company receives a complaint of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, your first steps should be to hire an Orlando employment lawyer who can provide you with counseling, advice and training in handling discrimination charges. Keep the following tips in mind.
- EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK: Every business should have an employee handbook that details the procedures to be adopted in the event of a workplace complaint or charge of discrimination. If you have a handbook, you should follow the procedures laid out there.
- INTERNAL INVESTIGATION: You should promptly investigate the complaint. Failure to adequately conduct an internal investigation could escalate the problem with any reviewing agency, a loss of employee confidence in the company, and an inability to assert certain defenses in lawsuits.
- DO NOT RETALIATE: You need to watch your step about being accused of illegal retaliation. Anger is only one form. You should think hard before changing anything to do with your complainant – new shift hours, new responsibilities, invitations to meetings and so on. Anything unusual in these could be construed as retaliation.
- KEEP ACCURATE, DETAILED RECORDS: Thorough record-keeping is important to any investigation. If your case goes to court, your records will help you prove that you did your duty.
- KEEP THINGS CONFIDENTIAL: All workplace discrimination investigations should be confidential. If your employees hear about a discrimination complaint, they could begin to take sides. A polarized workplace can be terrible for productivity. Be careful about over-promising confidentiality though. In the event a charge is filed with an agency or a lawsuit arises, you may be required to produce the information you gathered during your investigation.
Should your investigations uncover a wrongdoer, you may need to take prompt, corrective action. If your employees perceive your corrective action of the wrongdoer as lenient, it could be bad for employee morale and result in further action.
The lawyers at Wilson McCoy, P.A. recognize the demands encountered by today’s employers. We provide employers with everyday advice, training, and counseling services which are designed to prevent complaints of discrimination. We also discretely investigate and thoroughly respond to charges of discrimination on behalf of our clients so that they may maintain focus on their own work matters.