Discrimination against employees based on race, gender, religion, or disability is unlawful, but it’s easy for well-meaning employers to get caught up in discrimination lawsuits when they are simply exercising their right to make the decisions that are best for their company. At Stone LLP, we’re committed to protecting the rights of employers who’ve been subjected to unfair and unfounded lawsuits.
Potential Defenses for a Discrimination Claim
If your business has been accused of employment discrimination, it’s vital to understand the possible defenses to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint.
- Job performance. Terminations based on job performance issues such as a lack of productivity, tardiness, or excess absences are legitimate even if an employee is in a protected class. However, the reason for the termination needs to be thoroughly documented in the employee’s HR records.
- Bona fide occupational qualifications. Employers are allowed to make decisions that would otherwise be discriminatory if they are legitimately necessary for the operation of the business. For example, a private Christian school is allowed to require that all staff members share the same religious views. On a similar note, airlines are allowed to refuse to hire older pilots because federal safety regulations require mandatory retirement ages due to safety considerations.
- Seniority. A seniority system is a system that provides additional pay and/or benefits to individuals who have been with the company for the longest period of time. Employment decisions made on the basis of seniority systems do not constitute discrimination unless all workers are not allowed to participate on equal terms.
- Business necessity. Decisions based on business necessity, such as cutting hours or transferring workers when a company is struggling financially, are legal as long as the employees affected aren’t targeted due to protected job characteristics.
Note that for an employment discrimination case to be valid, the employee must meet specific statutory requirements such as following filing deadlines and notifying the employer before taking action with the EEOC. Complaints that fail to meet statutory requirements will be dismissed—even if they would otherwise be valid.
How We Can Help
Lawsuits are a distraction from your business’s core mission, have a negative effect on employee morale, and can be very costly. Protect your firm by implementing policies that prevent discrimination and by addressing all issues promptly. If you need assistance defending your company against a discrimination complaint, contact the labor and employment defense attorneys at Stone LLP today.