Everyone loves lists. Although not everything is reducible to a simple list, nonetheless here is our list of ten tips (back by popular demand) to lower your risk of being sued for employment discrimination
1. Know the basics of anti-discrimination law, both federal and in your state and city. Be familiar with what a “protected category” is, what you can and cannot ask in an interview, what constitutes harassment, what is retaliation and an “adverse action,” and what to do if an employee complains of discrimination.
2. Know who you hire. Consistent with the anti-discrimination laws, and without violating laws relating to, by way of example, credit and criminal record privacy, and health record confidentiality, do the legal and proper due diligence before you hire someone.
3. If you are big enough, hire a knowledgeable and experienced HR person.
4. If you cannot afford or justify hiring an in-house HR person, make sure that you have someone you can turn to who can identify an employment discrimination issue before it develops or gets worse, be it an attorney, or even an outside vendor who works with employers and know the terrain.
5. Draft and maintain an up-to-date employment manual, which incorporates all of your companies policies and procedures, and keeps current with the ever-changing law.
6. Make it known to your employees that you have a zero-tolerance anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy in your company, which you will enforce fairly and consistently. And be serious about it.
7. Conduct periodic training programs for all managers and employees in anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies.
8. Keep good and thorough records, and document everything, especially employee performance and evaluations, problems and complaints, and any other matters that may be necessary down the road to support disciplinary measures, termination or reductions in force.
9. Let all employees know where and who to go to register a complaint, so as to give an aggrieved employee recourse if he/she experiences discrimination or feels aggrieved. Treat all employee complaints seriously and confidentially, and investigate all claims promptly and even-handedly.
10. Above all, obey the “Golden Rule” as it applies to the workplace: be as honest, transparent and forthright with employees as is consistent with business considerations, keep employees in “the loop,” and maintain a fair and consistent workplace. Employees who feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully are less likely to complain or sue.