April 20, 2019
Policies, Training, Enforcement Help Avoid Workplace Discrimination Claims


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Policies, Training, Enforcement Help Avoid Workplace Discrimination Claims

Penalties and damage awards resulting from successful EEOC actions or workplace discrimination lawsuits can be burdensome to large employers; they can drive small companies out of business. Reduce company exposure by working with HR and your legal team to implement and enforce proper policies to achieve a workplace culture with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

While alleged sexual harassment cases are prevalent in the news, employers need to be aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is serious about enforcing all types of workplace misconduct and know what steps to take to limit their exposure.

In a span of about five weeks, the EEOC recently issued six bulletins related to actions or settlements reached in matters of workplace discrimination involving sexual harassment and retaliation, background check policies and discrimination based on pregnancy, disability and gender.

These cases send a clear message that the EEOC continues to pursue practices unlawful under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They also highlighted why employers from Fortune 500 to small companies are fair game for enforcement actions.

Whether under Title 7 or similar laws, like the Florida Civil Rights Act and local county ordinances, the following points can help limit a company’s exposure and protect an organization from allegations of workplace discrimination:

Establish clear company policies — and empower HR to enforce them. Failure to comply with federal, state and local regulations often stems from lack of proper workplace policies and training. With the assistance of a labor and employment attorney, draft HR policies and present them to current employee, as well as each new employee upon hiring, to read and acknowledge their willingness to follow.

Implement employee, manager and HR department training. Professional training can help answer questions and drive home the rules. Training also can be seen as evidence of the seriousness the employer places on compliance.

Get senior leadership support. Having policies in place, then failing to enforce them, sets the organization up for failure. Senior leaders must back HR, whether the accused is a shop-floor worker or a high-producing sales representative. No one can be immune from investigation or corrective action, including termination.

Open up direct lines of communication. Companies not made aware of possible claims cannot address such situations. Every employee should be encouraged to approach HR with any concerns.

Investigate, document and take corrective action if necessary. Never turn a blind eye, ignore or simply transfer employees from one location or division to another when facing a discrimination claim. Moreover, while EEOC claims must be filed within a year, document every allegation presented by an employee, the investigation, and corrective action taken, if any. The documentation should be in real time as it is not best practice to rebuild notes months later.

Prepare your response. If you receive an EEOC complaint, it is important to promptly identify the documents and individuals needed to respond to the allegations and consult with employment counsel to assist with preparing the response.

About the Author Catalina M. Avalos is a director with the law firm Tripp Scott, PA. She practices in labor and employment and complex commercial litigation. A former county court judge, she currently is co-chair of the Broward County Bar Association Labor & Employment Section. Learn more at

For more than 40 years, Tripp Scott has played a leadership role in issues that impact business such as employment law. This is shared as information on safeguarding your company’s trade secrets.

Tripp Scott Law Firm

Fort Lauderdale • Tallahassee
954.525.7500 •


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