Happy October!

More Scary HR Issues

to Haunt Your Dreams

To continue our October theme of scary HR issues, I’d like to focus this week on preparing for the dreaded accusation of unjustly terminating an employee. It’s always a little unnerving, but understanding a few simple things can give you peace of mind when you have to make the tough decision to end someone’s employment.

First, as we discussed last week, documentation is key. Be absolutely sure you have followed your organizations disciplinary process. Document every step and keep a fair mind when you are dealing with a difficult employee. When it comes to defending your action, this will speak volumes.

Second, think about the legal accusations you may face. Understanding discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment in terms of the legal definition will help you keep your sanity. As well, it’s a great way to ensure you are treating your employees equally. These terms are often thrown around by employees in ways that do not meet the legal definition. You must always take them seriously, but understanding the meaning will help you to thoroughly investigate the accusation, and determine if you or the organization may be at risk. Most of the time the employee does not understand the legal meaning of these terms. Sometimes helping them understand that you thoroughly investigated any and all claims, but that their perception that they are a victim of one or more of these unlawful employment situations did not meet the legal definition, and why, could possibly mitigate further needless time and effort on their part and subsequently yours, to lodge a claim that would be rejected. In other words, understanding the legality yourself, taking any accusations seriously, and educating the employee on the difference between their perception and the legal reality could save you all a lot of time. It also helps keep the focus on the issues contributing to the possible or inevitable termination.

There are a few definitions to keep in the back of your mind when considering termination. According to the EEOC:

  • Harassment = unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It becomes unlawful when:

    • The offensive conduct becomes a condition of employment.

    • The conduct is severe or pervasive enough that a “reasonable” person would find it intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

  • Discrimination = Treating a person unequally based on race, gender, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability. It becomes unlawful when:

    • An adverse employment action is taken based on the factors above.

    • Other similarly situated employees of a different race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, or who are not disabled or perceived as disabled, are treated more favorably.

    • AND the conduct is severe or pervasive enough that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision.

These are questions you should be prepared to answer BEFORE you terminate an employee. Being mindful of potential allegations of harassment and/or discrimination and ensuring you would be able to answer any questions related to such questions related to a claim will give you the peace of mind that your actions are fair and unbiased and you have done your due diligence to mitigate personal or organizational risk.

We believe in a well-rounded approach to harassment and discrimination training. We train your leaders to avoid the pitfalls that may put you and your organization at risk. As well, we train your employees to understand the real meaning of harassment and discrimination, how to recognize it, what to do if they feel they are experiencing it, and how to avoid inadvertently participating in the conduct itself. Tackling all of these areas simultaneously will help create an organizational environment with less risk while also highlighting that you are committed to investing in a harassment and discrimination free workplace.  Reach out to us via our Techpeopleresources.com contact page, by phone, or through any of our social media platforms which can be found on our website. We love to create unique, customized training that works for your team.


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