Avoiding Unemployment Discrimination Lawsuits
Whether your business has 1 or 500 employees, every business faces potential charges of discrimination at every stage of the employer-employee relationship
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Equal Pay Act
Civil Rights Act
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Illinois Human Rights Act
Cook County Human Rights Act
This is only a partial list of potential legal traps for the unsuspecting business owner. The only sure-fire way to avoid discrimination problems is to shut down your business. Short of this drastic measure, there are ways to minimize the risks of becoming involved in discrimination complaints and suits.
In general, every employer should have a well-publicized policy against all forms of discrimination. Recent laws require employers to conduct a thorough evaluation of their employment practices, particularly hiring and recruitment processes, to limit potential discrimination charges. Consider your employment applications and the interviewing process...most of which have to be revised to comply with the ADA and other laws. The hiring process is filled with potential traps for the unsuspecting business owner.
Most discrimination suits are brought by current or former employees, not by rejected candidates. Problems can be avoided by careful review of the manner by which employees are evaluated, disciplined or promoted. All employment records and solicitations for positions must be maintained for up to one year after any disciplinary actions taken against an employee. Any requests for accommodation by an employee must be documented and records preserved under the ADA.
Personnel files should be kept secret and requests for references about former employees should be kept to a minimum. Involve women, minorities and other protected individuals in the decision making process. Courts believe that white males have an inherent bias against women and minorities, and involving women and other minorities may help alleviate this bias.
Given the ever increasing stakes in employment-based litigation, employers are well-advised to become familiar with the various laws regulating employer-employee relationships. Compliance with these laws, careful record-keeping, and accommodations can go a long way towards reducing or eliminating an employers’ potential liability for discrimination.