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The best defense to discrimination claims is to avoid them

As an employer here in Colorado, you certainly don't want a reputation for having a bad working atmosphere. If employees don't feel as though they work in a place free from hostility, discrimination, retaliation and harassment, word will get around. More importantly, as a business owner, you genuinely want to make sure that your employees feel safe.

Despite your best intentions as an employer, you could still face discrimination claims from employees. One of the best ways to defend your business from these claims is to take steps to avoid them in the first place. One way to do that is to make sure you put policies and procedures in place to make it clear you will not tolerate certain behaviors.

Your employee handbook

Your best defense against discrimination claims often begins with your employee handbook. Even small businesses need one if you have employees. You can begin by implementing the following and documenting these steps in your employee handbook:

  • Create a detailed anti-discrimination policy that also addresses harassment and retaliation.
  • Provide definitions and examples of discrimination, retaliation and harassment in your policy to help make it clear what each consists of.
  • Outline the complaint procedure, including any disciplinary action that will occur in the event of a substantiated complaint.
  • Conduct training sessions for all employees, including managers, supervisors and executives.
  • Make it clear to managers that it is their job to identify possible discrimination and deal with it quickly and efficiently.
  • Address the fact that these behaviors are unacceptable beginning with the hiring process.
  • Don't let complaints languish. The sooner you address an issue, the better off everyone will be.

A comprehensive anti-discrimination policy is only the first step. You need to make it clear that you will follow through. Your employees should feel free to come forward with their concerns. Even if you don't think a certain behavior would be discriminatory, retaliatory or harassing, do not diminish the feelings of the employee making the claim. You must treat every allegation seriously.

If you are unsure of how to create an appropriate anti-discrimination policy that meets current federal and state legal standards, you may want to consult with an employment law attorney. The more you do right from the beginning, the better the chances are that any complaint can be resolved efficiently and to everyone's satisfaction before it ends up in a courtroom.

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