Human Resources Consulting - Columbia SC

How NOT TO HANDLE a Racial Harassment Claim

Recently our local newspaper ran a front page story about a company which settled a racial harassment/discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In the article, it explained how an African American employee had complained to management on several occasions about the racial harassment he was experiencing in the workplace. Management did nothing to follow up on the charge and tried to “sweep it under the rug”. In frustration, the employee went to the EEOC to file a charge. In retaliation for filing the charge with the EEOC, the employer fired the complaining employee.

The EEOC investigated and found that the charge had merit. Rather than going to trial, the company decided to settle the charge for $40,000. They were also required to follow the terms of a multi-year consent decree. The decree required the employer hold anti-discrimination training at its facilities and prohibited the company from participating in future acts of racial discrimination. The company was required to post notices of the settlement at the factory while also implementing anti-discrimination policies that ban such acts.

Generally when companies find themselves in this type of situation, they have done several things wrong. These issues can be prevented entirely with the implementation of a few basic Human Resources practices. All companies should have standard policies and procedures along with an employee handbook which makes it clear that harassment/discrimination against anyone is both illegal and against company policy. If a complaint is received from an employee, it must be thoroughly investigated as soon as possible and corrective measures taken to insure that the inappropriate actions cease immediately and that absolutely no retaliation occurs against the complaining individual. Companies should also implement yearly training programs for both employees and Managers to insure that everyone understands the seriousness of these issues as well as their own individual rights and responsibilities.
None of this is rocket science, it is basic HR 101.

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Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC
Columbia, South Carolina
Office: (803) 481-9533
Cell: (803) 305-8962 

Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC