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Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2019

Discrimination in the Workplace: Employer Lawsuits on the Rise

Perplexed young woman looking at coworkers pointing fingers at h

Not all forms of discrimination are outlawed; discrimination in the workplace is actually a part of what makes offices function. Employers are free to kick out people who show up to work late, who don’t meet the expectations of their position, or who lie about their qualifications.

Yet, discriminating against anyone for any reason other than their performance will definitely earn you a lawsuit. Not only is it unethical and illegal to kick someone out for their age, disability, or race. It’s also illegal, and employees are quickly learning that means they can take you to court.

In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw 20,000 more charges for employer discrimination than when it first started collecting statistics. The number of charges being brought against employers for discrimination is rising and for good reason. Employees are starting to realize they have a voice.

Keep reading below to learn about employer discrimination, and what’s behind the rise in the number of charges against employers.

Discrimination in the Workplace Doesn’t Look Like What You Expect

When most people imagine what discrimination looks like, they probably imagine a curmudgeon hiring manager sifting through resumes. One look at the picture of an applicant and the manager may toss the application away for no reason than the person’s race. Yet, discrimination is almost never that clear.

Instead, discrimination can be enshrined a company’s policies on how to treat employees who may be struggling to meet performance expectations. The values a company claims to stand for can unintentionally discriminate against people. Discrimination is subtle, and it can be hard to identify before it’s too late.

Keep reading below to learn more about what discrimination in the workplace looks like, so you can start changing your office for the better.

Only Terminate Employees for Their Performance

To avoid a discrimination lawsuit, you need to take steps before terminating an employee to ensure their performance is the issue. It’s one story if an employee is consistently late or refuses to conform to company policies. In these cases, you can fire them outright since you’ll have plenty of evidence to prove you aren’t discriminating against them.

Yet, terminating employees based on their performance can be another story. There are lots of factors that can affect an employee’s performance, such as having a child or developing a sickness. If their performance changes after a major event and you terminate them for not meeting expectations, you’re discriminating against them.

Firing someone because their performance changes after an injury or after having a child is a form of discrimination. No matter how you try to explain it, the courts will rule in favor of the former employee. It doesn’t matter how much their performance changes, as long as they keep performing their duties.

Refusing to Accommodate is a Form of Discrimination

Another subtle form of discrimination is refusing to accommodate someone due to a disability or religion. For example, if someone has an injury that requires them to be in a wheelchair, you need to take steps to make sure they can navigate the office. People should be able to work without facing unique, individual obstacles.

The same applies to a person’s religious beliefs. If someone believes they need to wear a Hijab to practice their faith, you need to accommodate that. It doesn’t matter if your dress code forbids headwear — refusing someone the right to practice a religion at work is discriminatory. A person’s practice goes before policy.

If your company doesn’t make the changes it needs to in order to accommodate its employees, it’s discriminating against them. It will result in a costly lawsuit.

Employees Are Learning About Their Rights

There are several ways to explain the rise in discrimination lawsuits, as well as a more recent drop in them. It began with the internet, which enabled employees to research their rights themselves. Employees who think they’ve been wronged at work no longer need to go to the company HR department.

Instead, they can simply Google their options. This took control away from employers over discrimination policies, since employees could do than just check if it was up to code. They could compare company policies and tell if their company needed an update to its practices.

The internet was just the start of how employees learned they could fight back against discrimination. Keep reading below to learn more about what led to the rise in discrimination lawsuits.

Social Media Spreads Stories Like Fire

One of the largest reasons for the spike in lawsuits in 2016 is the proliferation of social media. Through websites like Facebook and Twitter, employees learned they could organize themselves against unfair business practices. They could share stories about how they were discriminated against.

Those stories would then spread to massive audiences, which emboldened people to take action. Current employees also began to recognize situations they had to go through themselves in other people’s stories. Social media helped people realize when they may have been discriminated against.

Once people made that realization, they began to organize through social media. They brought trials against discriminatory employers in troves and helped to bring the issue to light.

Increased Media Coverage as Labor Controversies Attract Attention

As social media movements formed around labor discrimination, traditional media picked up on it. The stories they told about the issue portrayed former employees as victims of a widespread issue. The traditional media helped to illustrate how people had lives outside of work, and firing them for something outside of work was wrong and illegal.

At the same time, companies picked up on these stories as well. As a result, companies began changing their policies to portray themselves as progressive leaders. They aligned themselves with the employees demanding change, and as a result, created standards for anti-discrimination policies. Most of the time, they created these new policies by working with lawyers, like the Klein Law Group.

An extremely recent decrease in the number of discrimination lawsuits this year can be attributed to this. Companies began to change themselves to accommodate more people and began to work with their labor forces. As a result, fewer charges began being filed.

Stay Safe By Following the Law

The easiest way to avoid a discrimination lawsuit is to follow the law and to try and be a good employer. If an employee informs you that they’re expecting a child or were diagnosed with a disability, you shouldn’t do anything but help them. Expect their performance to decrease, and just live with it.

In fact, the more you try to accommodate employees with disabilities or unique difficulties, the more productive your company will be. Discrimination in the workplace doesn’t just hurt employees, it also hinders the amount of work the company can do. And as an employer, you want the best for your company.

To learn about what else you can do to help both your company and the people working for it, keep reading here. Our website covers the latest in business news, so you can stay ahead of your industry!

Author: Laura Brown

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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