Discrimination Claims In The Workplace Are Evolving

March 11, 2015       The NonProfit Times      

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Employment discrimination complaints today cover a wider range of issues, some of which were nonexistent a generation ago. New areas of dispute can include telecommuting and sexual orientation.

Employers need to pay close attention to all employee complaints, no matter how trivial they seem to be, according to Karl Ahlrichs, a national speaker and author, and Peter Petesch, an attorney specializing in employment issues, speaking during a conference of the American Institute for CPAs (AICPA).

Nonprofits are not immune from discrimination complaints and human resource executives are in the vanguard in protecting their organizations from lawsuits and costly settlements. Topics ripe for discrimination complaints are:

1) Disability: Always respond to an employee’s communication regarding a disability claim since a person can be considered “disabled” in more ways than you can imagine. Claims are no longer limited to physical ailments but can include any situation that impairs a person’s ability to do their job.

2) Telecommuting: More and more employees are working from home. Before denying a request to work outside the office, an employer must show that a physical presence is an essential function of a job and that telecommuting would impose a hardship. Job functions need to be clearly defined.

3) Transgender: Sexual orientation and discrimination has ballooned in the past decade. Transgender discrimination is regarded as the same as gender discrimination and is protected under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.

4) Religion: An employee does not need to explicitly use the words “religion” or “religious” when requesting time off for spiritual or cultural reasons. Get a better understanding of the request before rendering a decision.

5) Violence: Safety comes first in the workplace but always consider an employee’s legal rights and possible claims when responding to potential violence.

6) Retaliation: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted to protect whistle-blowers, applies to virtually all businesses, including nonprofit organizations. Firing an employee for revealing organizational errors will only compound your problems.