A small business owner can run the tightest ship and yet find him or herself staring at a financial nightmare - a discrimination suit.
The problems a small business employer can face include a sexual harassment lawsuit, an age discrimination lawsuit, or a disability claim just to name a few. What initially seemed like a harmless in-office comment or action can soon turn into hiring an attorney and fighting to avoid opening up the checkbook.
Just what constitutes discrimination in the workplace? Would you be able to recognize the signs of discrimination? What action would you take against an employee if you suspected them of discrimination?
For unaware small business owners, even a staff of less than 20 employees means meeting the obligations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those small employers who have offices of 20 or more employees are also required to meet the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. These same employers not only have to comply with federal laws, but also a number of state laws.
In order to minimize the chances of being sued, here are some actions to abide by:
- Avoid discrimination from the start. Employers should hire individuals without considerations to gender, national origin, race, religion. When advertising for help, be sure the advertisement is not discriminatory in any manner.
- Run your office without even a hint of discrimination towards employees. If an employee reports a case of sexual harassment or racial targeting, be sure to thoroughly investigate it.
- Maintain records of all incidents involving employee disciplinary action and firings. In the event you are sued down the road, having all employee actions documented will assist you in supporting your case.
- Be sure not to retaliate against an employee who comes forward with an allegation of discrimination.
Employers should note they are required to post notices to all employees informing them of their rights under EEOC laws (for more information on anti-discrimination laws, click here); notices must be available to individuals with any disabilities that impact their reading.
As it stands, many states and towns have anti-discrimination laws and agencies that enforce laws regarding employer discrimination. Employers are advised to review their state laws to determine what added protections employees have and the requirements they must meet in running a business.
Running a business certainly comes with its challenges, but the rewards can be many.
Have you made it your business to run a discrimination-free operation?