Employment discrimination claims have the potential to permanently damage the reputation of a business. These claims are expensive to fight, and may bring unwanted publicity to the business. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of having an employee file a discrimination claim, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of employment discrimination claims in Palm Beach, Florida.
Conduct Regular Employee Trainings
Conducting mandatory training sessions for all of the employees in your business will demonstrate intolerance for discrimination. Trainings that focus on the significance of diversity, respect in the workplace, types of harassment, and prohibited behaviors will sensitize your employees to the effects of workplace discrimination. This training will also make your expectations clear to your employees. They will know that discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated. Should a discrimination claim arise, you will be able to demonstrate that you took these preventive measures.
Enforce Zero Tolerance Policies
A zero tolerance policy in your business will establish the principle that all employees who violate workplace rules will be disciplined in the same manner. When an employer is able to prove that there is uniform punishment across the board, it is more difficult for an employee to claim that some sort of discrimination has occurred. Of course, these policies must be regularly enforced to be effective.
Keep Detailed Records
Written warnings and thorough employee review records make a major difference when an employee claims that he or she was discriminated against. Every time an employee commits a violation of workplace rules, make a note of the date and the violation that occurred. By showing that there were legitimate reasons to reprimand or terminate an employee, such as lateness, a lack of professionalism, or failing to perform job duties, the discrimination claim becomes weaker.
Maintain Thorough Employee Records
One of the most important steps your business can take to fight wrongful termination claims is to keep detailed records of an employee’s conduct. Review the employee’s conduct every few months, and keep an itemized list in the employee’s file of the areas they need to improve. Similarly, written records of misconduct should also be kept.
Publish Written Rules and Give Copies to Employees
Each employee should also receive a written list of rules and expectations in the workplace, and the consequences for any violations. Even if your business does not publish a 50-page handbook, providing written procedures to each employee will benefit your business if you can demonstrate that the employee had notice that a violation he or she committed would result in termination.
Take Any Decision to Terminate an Employee Seriously
It is a good idea to consult the human resources department in a business before firing an employee. Discussing the situation in detail with a third party will help you argue that there was no bias in your decision to terminate the employee.
The Parting of the Ways: Documentation
No matter how carefully an employer screens employees during the hiring process, and no matter how well they train and treat their employees, the time may eventually come when they have to terminate an employee. This process is never an easy one; it often involves emotional responses, especially when the employee is well-liked on a personal level.
Termination of employment can become even worse, however, if it is not handled properly, leaving the employer open to litigation for wrongful termination. Wrongful termination is defined as any employment termination that violates an employee’s rights:
- If the termination is based on unlawful reasons, such as racial discrimination or revenge for private actions of the employee;
- If the termination violates a contractual agreement with the employee;
- If the termination involves the violation of public laws or policies (for example, termination for absences as the result of jury duty or other public responsibility).
Backing Up a Termination
Even when an employee voluntarily resigns or quits, the employee may claim “wrongful termination” alleging that the employer created a hostile work environment causing them to no longer be able to work for that employer and “forcing” the employee to quit (known as a Constructive Termination).
Proper documentation is critical for an employer to avoid or defend against a wrongful termination claim. Employers should be able to demonstrate cause for termination of employment with proper documentation, possibly including:
- Performance evaluations
- Disciplinary action forms
- Attendance sheets
Indeed, simply having documentation may not be enough; the documentation must be consistent with the reasons given for terminating the employee.
The Final Word
Finally, when holding the exit interview or other meeting where the employee is informed of their termination, it may be prudent to provide them with the reasoning and all documentation. This simple step may help deter possible litigation related to the termination.