Allred, Maroko & Goldberg

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How Employers Should And Shouldn’t Respond To Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Complaints

Whether you report to a warehouse or the corner office for work, employees are afforded certain rights and protections under both federal and state employment laws. In addition to federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment And Housing Act provides broad protections against workplace harassment and discrimination based on various personal identifiers, including an employee’s:

  • Gender and gender identity
  • Age
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Disability

If you suffer discrimination or harassment at the hands of a supervisor, co-worker, vendor or customer, it’s important to document all offensive comments and behaviors and to file a complaint with your employer’s human resources department.

Investigating Employment Complaints

After a formal discrimination or harassment complaint is filed, an employer should respond promptly and take the complaint seriously. Steps that an employer or a third-party investigator hired by an employer should take to investigate a complaint include:

  • Conducting interviews with the accuser and other involved parties
  • Examining evidence
  • Documenting all evidence and outcomes related to the investigation
  • Issuing a formal report and decision that may include disciplinary action

When responding to an employee’s complaint, employers must be discreet and respect the confidentiality of the accuser and other involved parties with regard to the complaint and any related investigations and decisions.

When Retaliation Happens

Workplace discrimination and harassment complaints are often resolved through a process like the one outlined above. In some cases, however, an employer may unlawfully retaliate against an employee for complaining or filing a formal complaint.

Acts that may constitute such unlawful retaliation include:

  • Job reassignment
  • Demotion
  • Being passed over for promotions
  • Pay cuts
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Other harassing or discriminatory behaviors
  • Disciplinary action
  • Termination

Retaliation in the workplace frequently results in affected employees suffering significant emotional and mental stress as well as measurable financial losses. Because most employment agreements are considered at-will, employment retaliation claims are frequently difficult to prove. In these types of complex employment law cases, having the advice and representation of a skilled attorney is beneficial.

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