Reducing Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Other Claims: the Little Things Count!

If your company has been sued by an angry ex-employee — or has otherwise come under the gun for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), state labor laws, or anti-discrimination laws — you know that you need to change your core operating procedures.

But what, exactly, do you need to change?

Your first step might be to examine the “big stuff” – e.g., your policies for hiring and firing; your employees’ workload; and employee stress and productivity levels. It is obviously important to look at these practices. However, sometimes it is “the little stuff” that leads to the biggest problems in the workplace. For instance:

•    Poor lighting and ventilation.

All human beings have a deep need for regular sunlight and fresh air. If your building is dimly lit,  or if your ventilation system produces poor air quality,  your employees may become irritable, fussy, and fatigued. Bad lighting, poor nutrition, and lack of fresh air can turn what would ordinarily be a productive office into a   petri dish of back stabbing, rumor mongering, harassment, and bullying.

•    Lack of office culture/pride.

Dirty sidewalks, broken windows that never get fixed, company parties attended only by a cliquish few… these factors can diminish the office culture and sew the seeds of bad behavior.

•    No forum to allow the employees to express their autonomy.

You might be under the impression that your supervisors have a lot of autonomy, because they enjoy authority over subordinates. But having authority is not the same thing as having autonomy. When workers believe they must do things “by the book” – i.e., that they cannot improvise in any way or use their own insights to do business – they tend to perform poorly and listlessly. They may also seek to exert power in ways that are less than ideal (e.g., by harassing or discriminating against others).

If your business has been hit with an employment lawsuit — or if you have legal questions regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour issues, or other concerns — connect with attorney Nancy Gray today for a free consultation.

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