- Skils’kin, a nonprofit focused on helping people with disabilities find training and career placement opportunities, has settled for $100,000 an allegation from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it racially harassed and then retaliated against a Black worker after he complained (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Skils’kin, No. 21-cv-00185 (D. Wyoming Sept. 27, 2021)). In addition to the monetary settlement, Skils’kin will provide Title VII trainings and review and update its race discrimination and nonretaliation policies.
- Per the complaint, the Black plaintiff’s co-workers at Warren Air Force Base subjected him to racial slurs and other offensive racial comments. After he complained, his supervisor told the racist worker not to make such comments, but did not take disciplinary action and assigned the plaintiff to work alongside him, EEOC alleged. Additionally, it said Skils’kin eventually laid the plaintiff off while retaining a White worker with less experience.
- “We have always taken allegations of discrimination in the workplace very seriously and will continue to do so,” Skils’kin CEO Brian Behler said in a statement released to HR Dive. “We have always opposed any form of discrimination. Skils’kin is fully committed to creating safe and inclusive work environments for all its employees. We have a policy of swiftly, thoroughly, and diligently investigating every such allegation made by any of our employees as we did regarding this matter. Our communities know we are a values-driven company that does not tolerate discrimination.”
Employers can avoid discrimination and harassment lawsuits — or at least set themselves up to prevail — by having established procedures in place for when an employee complains. HR should be fully empowered to conduct a good-faith investigation, sources previously told HR Dive, which is usually one of the first steps to take when receiving a complaint.
Unfortunately, workers sometimes avoid HR, potentially due to having negative connotations or experiences with the department. It’s crucial that managers are trained in and feel prepared to handle complaints. A 2019 study by pelotonHR showed that employers have a long way to go in preparing managers to adequately respond.
For cases in which managers seem to be actively exacerbating the problem without HR’s knowledge, employers may be in a particularly precarious position. Last October, a call center was able to avoid a Title VII case involving a supervisor harassing her charge when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a district court’s dismissal — because the worker’s escalation to HR resulted in an investigation and an end to the harassment.
HR departments can encourage employees to come forward by maintaining an open-door policy, using anonymous or third-party tip lines and providing regular reminders about available resources, among other strategies, experts previously told HR Dive.