Tips for Avoiding Hostile Work Environment Suits

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Following the economic downturn, employee satisfaction has decreased and discrimination and hostile work environment complaints and suits are on the rise. Many employers in California do not realize how easily they can be held liable for the conduct of those they employ. Avoiding this type of monetary liability — as well as the public relations consequences a discrimination or harassment suit can sometimes bring — requires a great deal or preparation and forethought on the part of business owners.

There are several things California business owners can do to control their risk of liability under employment discrimination laws administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Employment and Housing:

  • Institute training for supervisors and managers that teaches them what types of conduct constitutes harassment.
  • Formulate and distribute a clear policy regarding harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Include guidelines for what constitutes harassment, disciplinary standards for those who violate the policy and a clear reporting system for victims.
  • Take prompt action to address any complaints of harassment or discrimination of which you become aware. Even if you or your company did not directly engage in discrimination, you may be liable if you knew it was occurring and failed to address it.

While these types of lawsuits are always a possibility and there is no way to completely eliminate your risk, these simple low-cost measures can clearly communicate your commitment to preventing workplace harassment, reduce the frequency of administrative complaints and open up potential defenses during any employment law litigation that does take place.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fox, Shjeflo, Hartley & Babu LLP | Attorney Advertising

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