If managers know about discrimination, what should they do?

The law protects workers from certain kinds of discrimination. For example, a West Virginia boss would be breaking the law to treat someone differently based on race, disability or religion. Often employees endure unacceptable treatment from managers and other co-workers simply because of their sex. When employers notice this type of discrimination, do they have an obligation to deal with it?

In some states, failing to intervene in situations of sexual harassment can mean trouble for an employer. According to a recent federal case brought before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, turning a blind eye to sexual harassment perpetrated by an employee in a supervisory position may result in the employer facing the same liability as the one committing the offense. The situation involved an employee of Home Depot in another state who repeatedly reported being sexually harassed by a supervisor.

The management of Home Depot did not remove the supervisor from his position of authority over the worker or follow up on compulsory anger management counseling. When the supervisor ultimately killed the worker, the victim's family filed a lawsuit against Home Depot, citing the management's failure to act on the woman's complaints of harassment. The appeals court agreed that the management had a responsibility to hire, oversee and train supervisors, and that reasonable actions by managers to protect employees from abusive supervisors are critical.

Employers who ignore reports of discrimination may be placing their employees in danger. Advocates of safety in the workplace urge managers to follow up on these claims, including with employees who leave the job because of a hostile situation. Workers also have the right to seek legal counsel, whether they feel they have a valid discrimination claim or fear retaliation for reporting violations of West Virginia employment laws.

Source: adn.com, "How to help a co-worker who's afraid of her boss", Lynne Curry, Aug. 15, 2017

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