The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that is responsible for enforcing federal discrimination laws in the workplace, today released a fact sheet aimed at helping small businesses navigate federal discrimination laws. The focus of the fact sheet is to simplify the requirements of the law to make them more easily understandable to small business owners as they make decisions on whom to hire and how to engage with their employees.
There are federal laws that prohibit discrimination against job seekers and employees on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. This includes discriminating against pregnant women by denying them employment or negatively affecting their employment solely on the basis of the pregnancy.
The fact sheet summarizes the responsibilities of a small business owner with regard to discrimination as follows:
- A responsibility to ensure that employment decisions are not based on discriminatory factors;
- A responsibility to ensure that policies and practices are not based on discriminatory factors, and are instead job-related;
- A responsibility to ensure employees are not harassed on the job based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information;
- Paying men and women the same pay for the same work;
- Responding appropriately to complaints of discrimination; and
- Providing needed accommodations to employees who need them, for example providing handicap accessible bathrooms to employees with disabilities.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does provide training on workplace discrimination and can provide mediators for discrimination complaints between employees and employers.
Beyond the fact sheet, how a small business chooses to deal with a discrimination complaint could determine how long the issue can stay with the business, and ultimately how much it will cost the business. In addition to legal fees and any other awards that may be awarded to an employee, there are additional costs to be taken into consideration, for example bad press leading to lost revenue. If a small business owner is unsure of how to handle a discrimination complaint from an employee, it is best to seek legal consultation before possibly making a bad situation worse.
Small business owners should also remember that there are also laws against discriminating against employees for their complaints of discrimination or their cooperation with an investigation into such complaints. Therefore, any procedures for handling complaints or allegations of discrimination should be written in a way that considers the impact on the complainant. Even when the intent of a process or procedure is not to punish an employee, it is possible for the impact or result of the procedure to be punitive, and this too should be avoided.
Contact An Experienced North Miami Business Attorney
If you are a small business owner considering hiring employees or developing an employee handbook, consult an experienced business law attorney to ensure that you comply with the legal requirements and protect your business. To find out more about how a business attorney can help your business, contact a North Miami business law attorney at the Charlip Law Group L.C. for a consultation today.