It Cost AT&T over $5 Million…Why Workplace Investigations Must Be (and actual be) Part of an Employer’s EEO/Harassment Policy

Ouch!  AT&T recently lost an employment lawsuit that resulted in $5 Million in punitive damages.

In that case, AT&T was accused of failing to provide religious accommodations and retaliating against a Muslim employee.  In slapping AT&T with these damages, the court demonstrated in very clear terms that it was not impressed with employment policies that merely pay lip-service to the principles and rules they dictate.  At issue here, AT&T had satisfactory policies  regarding discrimination, harassment, retaliation and accommodations, but it did not implement them satisfactorily.  Specifically, the lack of a meaningful workplace investigation into this employee’s complaints about religious discrimination was inexcusable.

Employers and Human Resources professionals should be mindful of the needs for good policies in their workplaces.  However, they should be prepared to implement them with a process or procedure that includes appropriate follow-up on workplace complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and already have a ready-list of external sources, such as One Mediation, for more substantive workplace investigations and mediations, in order to resolve matters before further damage to morale, compliance, or the bottom-line occurs.

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