A lot of time, effort, and money has gone into building your business’s reputation. As strong as that reputation may seem, it can all come crashing down when someone brings forth allegations of wrongdoing. One of the most damaging claims that can damage your business is one pertaining to workplace discrimination. Despite heightened scrutiny of this issue and the implementation of more preventative measures, businesses are still seeing a significant number of these claims each year.
When these claims are raised, you need to be prepared to defend yourself. If you’re unprepared, then you increase the chances that you’ll be found liable for the actions in question, which can be costly, damaging to your goodwill, and harmful to your reputation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of your defense options.
- Alternative motivation: To succeed on a workplace discrimination claim, an employee must demonstrate that he or she was subjected to a negative employment action due to his or her status in a protected class. But this doesn’t mean that a negative employment action can’t be taken against someone who is in a protected class. It simply means that his or her status in that class can’t be the motivating factor behind the decision. Therefore, you’ll want to look closely at your justification for the employment decision at hand. Oftentimes there are alternative motivations, such as poor job performance and excessive tardiness. This defense highlights the importance of documenting everything you can about your employees and their work performance.
- Business necessity: In some instances, workers bring legal claims arguing that a company policy or practice that is neutral on its face was applied in a discriminatory fashion. In these cases, employees come in with statistics that show how your policy disproportionately affected those of a protected class. However, if you can show that the policy or practice in question was necessary for performance of the job, then you’ll be better positioned to defeat one of these claims.
- Lack of notice: Generally speaking, your employee needs to report discriminatory behavior to you so that you can take action to remedy the situation prior to that worker taking legal action. If your employee failed to report the issue to you, then you might be able to successfully defend yourself against a workplace discrimination claim. In these circumstances, though, you need to be prepared to articulate what you would have done to rectify the issue if the employee had brought the matter to your attention.
- Failure to adhere to statutory requirements: A wronged employee needs to follow the law as it pertains to bringing a claim. This means proving every elements of the law and doing so in a timely fashion. If a worker fails to adhere to these requirements, then you can either defeat the claim or make it very unlikely that he or she will succeed.
You’re not alone in this fight
A workplace discrimination claim can come as a shock to an employer. While the allegations are serious and no one condones discrimination in the workplace, you shouldn’t let these allegations rattle you. Instead, you can obtain assistance from a strong defense team that knows how to build these cases and maximize your chances of success. This may mean pouring over employment records, witness testimony, the plaintiff’s credibility, and statutory and case law, but in these situations you don’t want to leave a stone unturned.
So, if you’re facing workplace discrimination claims, then do your research and carefully consider whether having a skilled legal advocate on your side is warranted.