How to Avoid Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuits
April 9, 2021
How to Avoid Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuits
All businesses face the risk of a lawsuit for discrimination or retaliation. For example, the Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company agreed to pay $100,000 and provide additional compensation to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC v. Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company, d/b/a Carefree of Colorado, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-02530-RM-NRN).
The EEOC alleged that Carefree refused to hire Anna Biryukova as an assembler or packer because she is deaf, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit also alleged that Carefree’s refusal to hire Biryukova constituted illegal retaliation under the ADA for complaining about discrimination and asking for a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit after first trying to reach a settlement through its conciliation process. This process occurs after an EEOC investigator has reviewed evidence or allegations presented by a complainant. If the investigator finds “reasonable cause” to believe an employer has engaged in illegal discrimination or harassment, the employer is typically offered conciliation.
During the conciliation process, which is voluntary, the EEOC will explain its findings to some extent and try to negotiate a settlement. The employer may accept or reject the EEOC’s settlement offer. If a settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC may either initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the complainant or provide the complainant with a “right to sue” letter, which allows them to file a formal lawsuit.
As an employer, there are several steps you can take to help minimize the chance of an ADA lawsuit by one of your employees. These include:
Identify Architectural Barriers
Evaluate your workplace to see if there are narrow aisles or hallways, bathrooms without accessible stalls, counters that are too high, areas of the building that cannot be accessed except by stairs, etc. These barriers possibly can be eliminated with some minor renovations. If not – for example, if a hallway is too narrow, and widening it would be prohibitively expensive – consider moving whatever the employee needs from that hallway to an accessible location.
Train Your Staff on How to Assist People with Disabilities
One type of reasonable accommodation under the ADA is to train your staff to help people with disabilities overcome difficulties they might face. Such difficulties could include, for example, reaching supplies on a high shelf, evacuating the building in case of a fire alarm, communicating with a hearing impairment, and a host of other things depending on the type of business you have and the type of disability or disabilities involved.
Treat All Employees Equally
All of your employees should have the same access to employment opportunities, benefits, promotions, training, etc., whether they have a disability or not. Also ensure that your hiring practices comply with the ADA. In addition, if one of your employees has a disability, talk with them about any accommodations they might need. Although you do not have to grant an unreasonable request, the ADA requires “reasonable accommodations” to be made for disabled employees.
Include Discrimination Policies in Your Employee Handbook
Your employee handbook should outline your company’s policies on discrimination, harassment, and accommodation of disabilities. In particular, it should clearly explain that the company is an equal opportunity employer that complies with all federal, state, and local laws on discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It also should establish procedures for handling discrimination and harassment complaints, including a non-retaliation provision that protects those who file them. Employees should specifically acknowledge these policies in writing.
Contact Counxel Legal Firm
Do you need help with an employment-related matter? Employment harassment/discrimination, retaliation, unpaid bonus/commission, wrongful termination, unpaid overtime, and alleged violations of the law are claims that can be equally traumatic for employees and employers.
For employees, knowing whether you have a viable legal claim is important so that you do not unnecessarily go through the stress and hardship of litigation. For employers, having these claims alleged against your business can result in financial liability and can cause significant disruption to a workforce if not handled properly. When dealing with these situations, you want to have a trusted team of attorneys there to help you each step of the way. Counxel Legal Firm is prepared to help.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact email@example.com or 480-536-6122 to request specific information for your situation.
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