HR Management & Compliance

Training Could Have Helped These Companies Avoid Litigation

Yesterday’s Advisor highlighted a few legal cases that serve as reminders that antidiscrimination and antiharassment training is essential for employers that want to avoid becoming a defendant. Today, we present a few more costly examples of cases that proper training could have averted.

In another sexual harassment case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Moreno Farms, a produce and packing operation in Florida. The agency claimed that two of the owner’s sons and another male supervisor engaged in graphic acts of sexual harassment against five female employees.
The employees were regularly groped, propositioned, and threatened with termination if they refused the supervisors’ sexual advances. The EEOC also alleged that the supervisors raped and attempted to rape female employees. All five women were ultimately fired for opposing the sexual harassment and assaults. On September 10, 2015, a jury awarded the women $17,425,000.
Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, an international flight institution in California, recently agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. A female aircraft mechanic told the EEOC that she was discharged by the academy’s president after she notified him she was pregnant and had a medical condition. In addition to providing monetary relief and reinstating the employee, the academy entered into a 7-year conciliation agreement.
The academy agreed to hire a full-time HR manager to oversee all equal employment opportunity (EEO) processes, review and revise its antidiscrimination policies and procedures, and provide training on the laws enforced by the EEOC to all employees. The agreement requires the academy to maintain a recordkeeping system to track and monitor complaints. The EEOC will monitor the employer’s compliance with the agreement.

Disability Discrimination

In September, the EEOC filed suit against a Subway® franchise for unlawfully discharging an employee because he has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). According to the agency, the franchise terminated an employee (identified as John Doe) after he told his manager he is HIV-positive. The EEOC alleges the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of a disability.

Bottom Line

Owners, managers, and supervisors are all responsible for ensuring that employees are being treated fairly and are not subjected to discrimination or harassment. There must be open lines of communication between employees and management.
Proper documentation is imperative so that hiring, promotion, and termination decisions can be reviewed for red flags. Supervisors’ and managers’ decisions should be regularly reviewed. Additionally, employers must have procedures in place to ensure employees can safely report discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Regularly update your policies, and enforce them. If you don’t already have an HR manager to oversee all EEO processes, consider retaining one.