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How to Protect Your Company From Discrimination Lawsuits

Lawsuits alleging discrimination can be a human-resources nightmare for a company. They're a headache to defend, and pose many public-relations problems for employers.

These lawsuits come up very frequently, sometimes with just cause and other times just as empty threats.

In any event, these lawsuits arise and employers need to position themselves wisely, to be in a better place once accusations of discrimination arise.

There are many ways to ensure a stronger position in light of such claims. Here are a few tips:

Have written policies in place.

Posted policies tell employees exactly what is expected of them, and are key to dealing with employee discipline. Make sure that the policies are well understood by managers. These policies should spell out how a case of employee discipline will be handled. It should also make clear that cases of employee discipline should be well documented.

Apply disciplinary policies uniformly and consistently.

Make sure that employees violating any company rules are treated the same. It's much more difficult for an employee to claim discrimination when you can point to another employee who was treated the same. In such a scenario, the complaining employee wouldn't be able to argue that he was being singled out.

These issues came up in a recent Texas case: An African-American woman who worked as a correctional officer alleged that she was being treated differently when she was disciplined for repeated absences.

The woman was eventually fired when she couldn't produce documentation regarding her sick leave, which her employer had requested. One factor that worked against her was the fact that other people of different races had also been fired for violating the same rule.

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