The truth is that your front-line supervisors will likely know about potential Human Resources and labor relations issues long before upper management - issues like favoritism, workplace safety, workplace harassment, discrimination, and bullying. If those same front-line supervisors are not trained to recognize these and other issues, you are exposing your company to an uneducated and potentially mishandled response, or perhaps even no response whatsoever. Such workplace issues should be appropriately addressed long before a complaint is filed with an agency a labor attorney is retained.
Simply put, harassment and discrimination awareness training is critical to the defense of any such claim. And such claims are on the rise, with agencies and courts clogged with cases. The bulk of these cases in 2015 were alleged retaliation by an employer, followed by race, disability, and gender discrimination. Specifically, there were 89,385 charges of workplace discrimination that the EEOC received in FY 2015, with retaliation charges continuing to be the leading concern raised by workers across the country. The EEOC resolved 92,641 charges in FY 2015, and secured more than $525 million for victims of discrimination through voluntary resolutions and litigation. Remember, an individual does not incur any cost to file a claim, yet the employer is at risk for the settlement &/or judgment (compensatory and punitive damages) plus the claimant’s legal fees.
Supervisors must be aware of what constitutes harassment and how to react/respond – ignorance is not a defense. It is exceedingly difficult for a labor attorney to defend an employer and defeat a harassment claim without the employer having an effective harassment awareness training program and a written procedure in place that is followed/utilized. Even more so if previous allegations were mishandled or ignored.
Instead, reasonable care must be taken, including but not limited to:
build a culture that prevents harassment: know the risk factors, monitor the workplace, and identify labor issues early.
have a protocol/system in place that everyone understands, and that enables front-line supervisors to response appropriately and timely. Emphasize accountability.
avoid re-victimization and retaliation.
Please contact us for more information if your company has not yet addressed front-line supervisor harassment awareness training.