Working in a “Business Friendly” State Doesn’t Mean Your Company Can be “Employee Unfriendly”
According to CNBC, Georgia is one of the top-10 best states for business. The methodology used by CNBC (found here) identifies various elements that are important to successful businesses: access to capital, economic climate, capital infrastructure and business friendliness. In the business friendliness category (which measures the regulatory environment as well as the volume and type of litigations against businesses), Georgia ranked in the top 15. That is, Georgia’s legal and regulatory landscape are more “pro” business and less employee friendly.
Given that Georgia is an “at will” state, it is common to hear (in casual conversations) that employers in Georgia can “do whatever they want” with respect to employees. Recently, I heard a manager at a smaller consulting firm (in Georgia) express relief that “at least Georgia isn’t like California.” The manager concluded, incorrectly, that because Georgia was business friendly, businesses could be unfriendly towards employees.
Federal Laws Are In Place in Business Friendly States
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to hire, fire or compensate employees in a manner that is discriminatory with respect to the employee’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This federal statute is applicable in all fifty states, including the business “unfriendly” states of Rhode Island and Hawaii and the business “friendly” states of Utah and Georgia (see the complete list here – California ranked 32 of 50.)
Fulton Employee Wins Discrimination Lawsuit
The Fulton County (Georgia) commissioners just settled a discrimination lawsuit for $475,000 against a former employee who claimed he was discriminated against because of sex. Walker Tisdale, who brought the suit against Fulton County, claimed his supervisor made disparaging remarks regarding his voice, his demeanor and his gender. The workplace harassment that Tisdale alleged is illegal under Title VII if the conduct is based on race, color, age, gender, religion, sex, disability or genetic information.
What Should A Company Do?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identifies that companies should take steps to prevent harassment discrimination before it starts. There is evidence that proactive training in harassment (sexual or otherwise) can have significant impacts on reducing the incidents of harassment in the work place. Organizations should kill harassment in its place. We recommend the RIP strategy:
“R” — Rigorous training for both management and non-management employees.
“I” — Investigation of complaints of harassment immediately and thoroughly.
“P” — Policies identifying behavioral expectations should be developed, implemented, and enforced.
Although specific harassment training is not mandated in most states, such as Georgia, training and proactive measures can have a significant impact on the liability of a company when it comes to harassment and Title VII claims.
Want to learn more? Contact CHRS for information regarding harassment training and employer responsibility under Title VII.
CHRS has proactively prevented Title VII lawsuits by providing thorough and meaningful training programs to its clients. By training your Managers and Supervisors you are not only protecting your organization from potential lawsuits, you are also protecting your employees.