When unemployment claims climb, it only makes sense that employment-related discrimination and retaliation claims follow suit. And statistics from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicate that is indeed the case: employment discrimination and retaliation claims by employees go hand in hand.
Laid-off workers -- especially those who are 40 or older -- are increasingly taking more legal action to recover their jobs or lost wages. Experts tracking the numbers suggest the increases are due not only to more layoffs in general but more particularly because of
* The difficulties experienced by older workers in finding new employment;
* The perception of some employers that older workers are less physically able to perform manual work;
* The perception of some employers that the cost of wages and benefits for older workers are higher;
* The perception of some employers that younger workers are more familiar with information systems and technology needed to promote higher productivity; and
* Changes in the law that make it easier for employees to pursue age discrimination claims based upon disparate impact without having to prove intentional discrimination.
With employment discrimination claims likely to increase, it's more important than ever for employers to take proactive steps to limit the risk of employment discrimination claims. Employers would be wise to consider
* Adopting policies that prohibit employment discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation in the work place.
* Posting mandatory federal and state notices concerning employment discrimination and other employment laws.
* Conducting training for managers and supervisors to ensure they understand the applicable laws.
* Ensuring that persons involved in the hiring and interviewing process do not ask inappropriate questions about an applicant's race, national origin, sex, age, disabilities and other protected classifications.
* Documenting carefully all of the nondiscriminatory reasons for disciplinary actions, warnings, performance reviews, terminations and other employment-related decisions.
* Investigating and responding to employee concerns about possible discrimination and retaliation in the work place.
* Avoiding any action that could be construed as retaliation against employees who raise concerns about employment discrimination and sexual harassment.
In many ways, employers have entered a new age of discrimination claims, particularly as the population continues to age. And when you consider that compensation for a successful age discrimination claim is unlimited, employers have far more to lose than employees.
Thomas H. Taylor is an attorney with Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC, (http://www.johnsflaherty.com), a full-service law firm based in La Crosse, Wis. According to the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC, has more top-rated lawyers than any other La Crosse law firm. His article originally appeared in The Business News.
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