Keeping employees happy while conducting business activities can be a difficult balance for any employer. While employment laws exist to protect employees from workplace discrimination, sometimes employees feel as though they’ve been discriminated against.

Three women recently reported alleged gender discrimination in the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office.  The allegations of the lawsuit include job demotion, pay differential and lack of attention to harassment reports.

As an employer, this could raise questions regarding what discrimination looks like and what types of discrimination accusations you could face.

What is workplace discrimination?

While managing employees, you regularly make a variety of decisions in the best interest of your business. Decisions about pay and bonus structure, hiring or firing and assigning employees to different departments are typical for any employer.

But in the midst of building your company, discrimination could potentially factor into an employment dispute in relation to:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Harassment
  • Demotion
  • Unwillingness to provide training
  • Disciplinary action
  • Failure to promote
  • Wrongful termination

If you’re not cautious, perceived nonpreferential treatment could cause trouble for you and your business.

Protection against workplace discrimination

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws against discriminatory behaviors in the workplace. While this specifically applies to employers with 15 or more employees, it may serve you well to follow these laws regardless of the size of your workforce.

Those protected by EEOC laws include discrimination based upon:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Color
  • Gender identity
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Genetic information
  • Pregnancy

New Jersey’s employment laws also prohibit employers from discriminating against anyone based on military service, marital or domestic partnership status.

In addition to protecting employees from workplace discrimination, these laws also serve to shield employees from retaliatory actions. This could include unfounded discipline or job loss due to filing a discrimination report or participating in an investigation related to an employment discrimination dispute.

Steps you can take to protect your business

Because of the sensitive nature of employee management, you might want to consider a couple ways to help protect yourself, and your business, from discrimination allegations.

If an employee destroys property, performs poorly or harasses someone in the workplace, clearly document their behavior and your response to it. This could help substantiate any future disciplinary actions, should they occur.

Review your company’s antidiscrimination policies. Are they clearly stated? Ensure your employees are trained on your policies and procedures.

As you move your company forward, you can lead by example through treating all of your employees fairly. If an employee does express a discrimination concern, speaking with someone experienced in mitigating employer-employee relations can help you determine your best course of action.