Sunday, September 21, 2014

Employers Could Save Billions By Preserving Employees' Civil RIghts

The way our American companies treat their employees, especially in employee civil rights, oftentimes is one of the more foolhardy and ill-conceived ways to run a business.

Take this fairly typical scenario:  a supervisor starts making sexually inappropriate remarks to a female subordinate.  She finally tells her boss to stop.  He doesn't.  She goes to her boss's boss and complains.  The first boss hears about the complaint and starts treating the woman with disrespect, criticizes here performance, writes her up, and makes her job hell and she quits.

The woman goes to a lawyer and files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  What does the employer do?  Here are some examples:

1.  Call a high price law firm to make the woman's life hell - checking into her sexual history, stating she is flirtatious or dates others, try to find dirt on her.  Then the law firm defends the case in a "scorched earth" fashion, sparing no expense, billing thousands of hours and ultimately offering nothing or an insulting amount to the woman.

2.  Hold sexual harassment "training" either in person or over the Internet that is universally ridiculed by the employees.  After all, how "politically correct" do they want us to be?  Women who complain are reviled and harassment is kicked up a notch.

These types of reactions can cost the company millions.  The company pays for their high-priced lawyers who prolong the case and bill generally, assigning ten or more staff to work on the case.  The company lives in la la land and believes that their side is the moral side, the one for capitalism.  After all, once you "grow" a business, are you not the king of your castle.  Are not your workers, or at least the ones with whom you cannot relate like women, older workers and workers of different races, in essence the serfs that serve the kingdom.  You are king.  No one call tell you how to run your business.

And then there is the verdict of lost wages, emotional distress damages and the pesky damages you did not consider, punitive damages, which can be in the millions.  When that happens, it's no reflection of how you treat your workers.  It's not reflection of your management's demeaning conduct to the women workers.  Of course, it's just our crazy jury system with juries comprised of stupid people which hate you because you are wealthy.

Sometimes company owners convince themselves that they are the victims.  They are not.  I have a different way that could ;save these business owners oh so much money.  This is what I would suggest:

1.  Do not assume your manager is right.  You can relate to him, but that does not make him right.

2.  Put yourself in the shoes of the employee.  Really get into those shoes.  How would ;you feel if you were her.

3.  If the guy harassed and retaliated against her - own up to it upfront.  I don't care what the lawyers or insurance companies say.  Taking responsibility saves you money and it is the right thing to do. Truthfully tell her - I am sorry.  We will make this right.  (This is probably all it takes to protect yourself from punitive damages.)

4.  Go to the harasser.  If the conduct is bad enough, fire him.  If not, reprimand.  Give all employees, management and non-management alike, extensive training and impress how the training is not to be ridiculed.  Make the employees step into the shoes of the employee who is discriminated against.  Talk about race and how we are all affected by our experiences with race.  Make the training a safe place to talk and complain.  Have professional trainers who understand the human dynamics involved in discrimination.  Repeat training often and show the employees how dedicated you are to eliminating discrimination.  Have professional objective conflict resolution professionals at your disposal to stop problems before they grow.  Dedicate your company to treating everyone, and I mean everyone, with respect.  The bullies get fired.

I could write a book about this, and I hope to do so.  However, the above is a good start.  We could have productive, engaged employees who do not sue their employers.  Morale would be high.  More later.

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