I recently attended an HR presentation delivered by Selina Wong from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
In the state of California, about 20,000 of these cases are filed per year, with about half of them having to do with employment terminations. The most common causes of discrimination filings have to do with disability or retaliatory moves on the part of the employer.
The DFEH has a goal is to resolve all cases within one year. They offer a free mediation program to help resolve cases more quickly. Of cases that go into voluntary mediation, 85% are successfully resolved, meaning the case does not move forward to litigation and the court process.
Ms. Wong from DFEH had the following advice for employers:
Be diligent about conducting annual training for EVERYONE. (i.e. sexual harassment sensitivity)
Set policy, communicate it clearly, and make sure there is awareness throughout the organization.
Clearly state the consequences of any violations.
Document that the training sessions happened (to prove that training was provided by the company).
Document attendance (have attendees sign in) to prove that the person was there when training was provided.
Investigate ALL complaints as soon as a possible and resolve an issue before it escalates.
When responding to a complaint or filing — be thorough and consistent. Make sure there is no “shifting” in the story or explanations. When the story shifts, the DFEH becomes suspicions.
Ms. Wong clarified the difference between the DFEH and the Labor Commission, since the public often mistakes one for the other. The DFEH handles discrimination cases while the Labor Commission typically handles pay-related issues and whistle-blower cases.
For those who want to learn more, the DFEH offers free webinars open to the public. Their website is: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/.
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