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3 employer mistakes when workers cite discrimination, harassment

An employee has concerns. She has reported misconduct in the form of sexual harassment, claiming the company harbors a misogynistic culture that tolerates boorish behavior while allowing managers to overlook women for their accomplishments and promotions.

As an employer, you must take these allegations seriously, investigate and act. Your employees are vital to your company, and they have legal protections shielding them from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. What an employer does or does not do plays a significant part in whether such issues are resolved or continue to fester.

Ignoring and retaliating against employee

Employers must promptly act when confronted with such serious workplace allegations. They also must avoid making mistakes that would harm the company in the long run. Here are some of the mistakes that employers sometimes make:

  • Failing to take the allegations seriously: When an employee reports discrimination or harassment, he or she expects to be heard and taken seriously. However, some employers remain dismissive of such allegations, failing to investigate or document details. An employer must make an effort to address these situations and stamp out any toxic environments.
  • Retaliating against the employee for filing a complaint: Employees want to be heard and not punished when raising issues. Retaliation for a legitimate work-related complaint is illegal under federal, state and local laws, too. Sometimes, employers retaliate by firing the worker, overlooking them for a promotion, shortening their work hours or giving them less desirable work shifts.
  • Failing to understand that such behavior may be widespread within the company: Perhaps such behavior has been tolerated for a lengthy period of time at the company, and either employers do not realize it or turn a blind eye to it. These also represent times when an employer should review any internal policies that may contribute to such behavior.

It takes courage to come forward with complaints about workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. The last thing an employee wants to hear is that they overreacted or must tolerate such behavior. Employers must hear them out, take the complaints seriously and take a deep internal look at the company’s culture.