Legal disputes with an employee can be incredibly stressful and expensive. If a worker is accusing your business or organization of discrimination, it is imperative that you take steps to protect your rights and your interests. A discrimination claim can cost your company time and money and damage your reputation and goodwill.
Here, our experienced employment lawyers at Anderson Jones, PLLC, highlight key factors to consider if an employee reports discrimination.
Step #1: Carefully Review, Understand, and Document the Allegations
As a starting point, it is crucial to document allegations as soon as they are levied so that you, as an employer, can review and understand the specific nature of the allegations and have a record should the allegations change over time. Generally, employment discrimination is less favorable or negative treatment of a job applicant or a worker based on a legally protected characteristic or status. Negative action could be a failure to hire, lower pay, or more harsh job assignments. More notable examples of discrimination are those based on race, sex, age, and disability status. Understanding such allegations is essential to developing a response.
Step #2: Thoroughly Gather All Relevant Evidence and Information
Once you clearly understand the allegations, gather all relevant information with the understanding your investigation is in anticipation of litigation irrespective of whether litigation actually ensues. The focus of your investigation should be discovering all relevant facts that either support or refute claims of discrimination. Cherry picking favorable facts for your investigation tends to undermine your conclusions if litigation later discloses unfavorable facts you omitted.
Information that may be relevant include witness statements, emails, text messages, company phone logs, any written communications, personnel records, and business records that can corroborate or refute witness statements. Be thorough and impartial when conducting your initial investigation. Getting an accurate account of the facts and identifying areas of factual disputes will help you respond and prepare for issues you cannot resolve through personnel practices or negotiation.
Step #3: Do Not Take Any Adverse Action Against the Employee
Retaliation against an employee who is asserting his or her rights or who is reporting alleged misconduct (a whistleblower) can give rise to separate causes of action. Negative employment action that targets those making claims against your company or organization can create liability when there was, in fact, no discrimination. Take each allegation of discrimination seriously, as public policy supports the vetting of allegations and punishes retaliatory conduct. Even a bad faith warrants a response through the proper legal channels with support, when needed, by an experienced attorney.
Step #4: Consider Options for Resolving the Matter in an Amicable Matter
Once you know the facts and the allegations, consider options to resolve the matter amicably. An aggressive defense or denial may not always be the most effective approach. Alternative dispute resolution or a negotiated outcome may be the right path forward. Any agreements to resolve disputes should be signed by the claimant and acknowledge that the claimant had the right to seek counsel prior to entering the agreement. Determining the most appropriate course of action involves business considerations, legal issues, and the impact on your workforce. If seeking an amicable resolution fails, you may need an aggressive defense.
Step #5: Seek Professional Legal Representation
Your company does not have to navigate an employee’s workplace discrimination claim alone. The right advocate can make all of the difference. It is imperative that you seek legal guidance and support. Our Raleigh, NC attorneys have representing employers, and they can advise and assist you with all aspects of a charge of discrimination to develop an effective strategy that considers applicable federal and state laws.
Contact Our Raleigh, NC Employment Lawyer for Employers Today
At Anderson Jones, PLLC, our North Carolina employment attorneys have professional experience on which you can rely. An ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure, and our attorneys can help you draft and implement policies, handbooks, protocols, and guidelines to help avoid more costly litigation. If you have any specific questions or concerns about an employee’s report of discrimination within your company, or if you have concern over old our outdated policies, do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.