- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a Dallas auto dealership, AOD Ventures, Inc. — doing business as Autos of Dallas — for race and color discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after a black salesman was allegedly presented with a trophy at a holiday party labeling him as "Least Likely to be Seen in the Dark." The salesman and other employees found the trophy to be "profoundly offensive" and he complained to the general manager who dismissed the incident as a joke.
- Shortly after the trophy incident, other employees teased the salesman about it, EEOC said; another employee allegedly told the man that he needed to smile to be seen in a poorly lit section of the dealership. The salesman was forced to resign, EEOC said, as he was unable to tolerate the environment.
- No remedial action was taken in response to the man's complaints, EEOC noted. An EEOC attorney said that "employers are required to take prompt effective remedial measures in response to complaints about discrimination."
HR has a responsibility to follow up on misconduct complaints. In some instances, HR should take a step further and undertake an investigation that can include interviewing witnesses, making a record of the discussions, and if misconduct is discovered, putting measures into place aimed at making sure the conduct does not happen again, experts have told HR Dive.
In addition, employers should make sure that employees have received copies of the company's policies on discrimination and harassment, including the rules describing the employer's stance on such topics.
Acting in good faith and acting promptly can help to prevent legal liability. A federal district court found in 2019, for example, that an employer was not liable for harassment because it took prompt remedial action that was sufficiently calculated to stop the alleged harassment. It had a harassment reporting procedure in place, quickly separated the complainant and the alleged harasser, investigated the claim and imposed discipline, according to court documents.
It is also important to have buy-in from the executive suite. Those at the top set the tone for a culture of openness and empathy, experts have told HR Dive. Employers can create policies that assure employees who report harassment that the organization will protect their confidentiality, investigate claims of harassment thoroughly and not retaliate against them.