Success in an organization should be defined by the amount of profit an organization makes as well as the safety and rights of employees. Lawsuits affect both small and large scale businesses; hence, both sectors need to respect laws governing employment. The number of lawsuits where plaintiffs complain of job harassment, gender discrimination, disability issues, amongst other similar related problems, has increased rapidly over the past few years. Improper management of workers or negligence of human rights by the Human Resource Management (HRM) team and the company, in general, can lead to expensive fines in courts and heavy long-term effects on the operations of an organization. Human Resource (HR) should formulate and implement proper methods to observe laws of employment to avoid lawsuits.
Effects of Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment attacks personal outputs directly and the general performance of an organization. Workplace harassment is a behavioral offense resulting in annoyance, tormenting of an individual’s feelings, and reduction of positive morale at work. Offensive harassment behavior takes a number of forms, including offensive comments on an employee’s ethnicity or tribe, rude remarks, intrusive comments, or jokes about gender, background, affiliation, or race. Also, Intrusive comments can be made on disabled workers and pregnant employees, and such impolite remarks are forms of workplace harassment.
Workplace harassment makes an individual uncomfortable hence reducing their general performance. Harassed employees experience unnecessary pressure which puts the victims at risk of poor performance and health challenges. Workplace harassment affects equal employment in organizations since some people might develop a fear of working in certain departments where there have been offensive workers and employers. For instance, when a worker with physical disability gets disrespectful comments, the worker might decide to leave and seek employment somewhere else. In addition, the management team might fail to employ some individuals due to their physical condition leading to unequal employment. Workplace harassment results in victimization and stigmatization in the working environment.
Elements to Follow a Harassment Claim
- A plaintiff should provide detailed information proving and explaining the kind of harassment being pursued. For instance, when a victim reports sexual harassment, he or she should prove the extent of the sexual allegation based on his/her gender. This implies; the complainant should provide precise information to show why he/she should not be the object of the target because of gender.
- The plaintiff should prove the behavior to be pervasive and unethical, complying with the court’s definition of a hostile environment. For instance, sexual harassment at the workplace is offensive, and therefore, the plaintiff should clearly indicate how the act affects his/her performance.
- The harassment was unwelcome – Unwelcome behavior means the act of harassment was committed without the consent of the complainant.
- Identify who is liable for workplace harassment – Some offensive acts within the working environment are propagated by employees while others are fueled by the employers. While pursuing a harassment claim, the complainant should identify the parties liable for the act.
Preventing Harassment Claims
Discrimination and workplace harassment has several repercussions if an organization does not take the necessary measures to prevent them. Following guidelines play an important role in reducing and eliminating workplace harassment. Such guidelines may include:
- Strict procedures and policies – It is an obligation of employers to formulate and implement strict rules and regulations against harassment.
- Leadership commitment – Leaders of a firm are the pillars for promoting a safe working environment. The commitment of a leader to cultivate a culture for zero tolerance to offensive behavior is paramount.
- Vivid reporting process – Some victims of workplace harassment suffer stoically due to a lack of proper channels to report the cases. Developing a clear reporting process will enable the victims to report cases of harassment hence, reducing such incidents.
- Vivid investigation process – A thorough and transparent investigation process will enable the designated team to identify and reduce cases of harassment.
- Regular training – Organizing trainings on the importance of establishing respect among employees by avoiding rude and unnecessary comments is vital in preventing harassment lawsuits.
- Establishment of correctional environments – When victims raise complaints on harassment, the organization should not retaliate but instead respond positively to prevent similar cases.
Accommodation of Employees with Disability
Accommodating people with disability in the workplace requires the management team to offer assistance and create positions enabling these workers to operate comfortably without discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids employment discrimination based on an individual’s disability. The ADA directs all employers to offer equal job opportunities to people with disabilities without discrimination and any form of workplace harassment. The ADA requires employers to create a proper communication channel to help workers with hearing impairment within the workplace. Organizations with have workers having disabilities should hire specialists to equip disabled individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties.
Apart from the ADA encouraging employers to hire people with disability, the initiative has an act restricting employers from hiring these group of workers in certain working environments. For instance, due to hardship, safety challenges, and complexities of the job description, it is considered appropriate not to hire individuals with disability in some departments. The following elements are vital when a disabled employee is filing a lawsuit against job discrimination:
- Medical proof – A disabled person with legal medical proof about his or her condition and is capable of working has full rights to file a lawsuit against the defendant practicing discrimination. Some employees might fake disability for the sake of satisfying their selfish personal interests in an organization. Hence, the need for a medical report from a legally registered health facility.
- Qualifications – Any person who has merited with full credentials for a certain job position has legal rights to be employed regardless of his/her disability. A disabled person can file a lawsuit against discrimination when having the required qualifications for the job position.
- Evidence of discrimination – The complainant must provide proof of discrimination before the court of law when filing a lawsuit against employment discrimination.
Bona Fide Occupational Qualification
In the legal employment sector, there are bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) in Canada, bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) in the US and genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) in the UK. These are important qualification attributes to be considered by employers when hiring workers. Religion can support the hiring of employees who meet certain religious rules to avoid lawsuits. For instance, in Catholic schools, one of the management requirements might be to employ a worker from the Catholic denomination to prevent unwanted hardship. It might appear to be a form of discrimination; however, it is legal to protect the faith and doctrines of a religion.
FMLA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Female Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to be given unpaid and job-protected family or medical leave with continuation of medical insurance cover following some legal terms. FMLA was initiated to aid workers in balancing their family issues and work-related responsibilities by giving them sound unpaid leave for specific medical and family issues. The Act also accommodates employers’ legal interests and requirements to enhance equal opportunities in the employment sector for both genders. For instance, FMLA is applicable to public agencies, private and public elementary schools, and organizations having fifty or more workers. Employers are required by the law to avail eligible employees with up to twelve weeks of leave every year.
Pregnancy discrimination entails treating a woman (an employee or applicant) unfavorably due to childbirth, pregnancy, or any medical condition linked with childbirth or pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) inhibits discrimination under the basis of pregnancy or childbirth when it comes to employment. The following are examples of FMLA mistakes managers make:
- Failure to formulate FMLA policies – FMLA enables employers to create specific guidelines on legal requirements concerning family and medical leaves due to pregnancy and childbirth issues. Managers can deliberately avoid creating FMLA policies in an organization, an act that is against the law governing FMLA.
- Failure to inform employees about the FMLA rights – The management team could have formed the FMLA policies but has failed to notify employees about its existence. It is a mistake to withdraw such information from employees since none of them will be able to know if they are legible or illegible.
The management team must be aware of all the FMLA policies according to a country’s laws to avoid facing lawsuits. The following are ways of avoiding FMLA mistakes:
- Formulating and implementing FMLA policies in an organization by clearly explaining all the rights to employees.
- The organization needs to organize training and seminars to train managers and employees on the FMLA policies.
- Keeping proper records and compensation plans of employees’ leaves and channeling the information to the organization’s relevant personnel.